Guide to Finding Reliable Information
Information about melanoma can come from many different sources. Normally, the original source of information can help determine its accuracy.
It is important to make sure that information you find on melanoma is credible and trustworthy. For example, research on the effectiveness of a new melanoma treatment that comes from a clinical trial will provide more accurate and reliable information than a patient or physician testimonial on treatment experience. This is because a clinical trial is an objective and unbiased scientific study, while a testimonial from a patient or physician is based on personal experience, which can be subjective. In other words, facts on melanoma are more reliable than opinions on melanoma. It is important to be able to tell the difference between high-quality information and low-quality information when researching on the Web or at a library.
Choose Quality Sources
To learn more about melanoma, it is helpful to read as much credible information as possible. Since there is a lot of information to choose from, it is important to choose sources wisely. When selecting an information source, keep in mind that high-quality information often comes from high-quality sources. High-quality sources are those that consistently present the most current and accurate information available. The following recommended quality sources are ranked from highest to lowest.
Clinical studies found in medical journals
A randomized, controlled, clinical study on melanoma treatment found in a current edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA)
Avoid outdated information and editorial opinions
Information on the different stages of melanoma from the most recent edition of the Oxford Textbook of Oncology
Use the most current editions since textbooks are often revised with updated information
Healthcare information from government, university, and nonprofit organizations
Melanoma fact sheet from the National Institutes of Health or NIH.org
Screen nonprofit information and Web sites carefully
Newspaper and magazine articles
New statistics on the increase of melanoma cases found in the science section of The New York Times
Ensure that the article is from a trusted media source and not a “gossip rag”
A program on the danger of sun exposure and the risk of melanoma found on the Discovery Channel
Ensure the program is from a trusted syndicate
Patient or physician experience accurately reported
A patient chat room that discusses personal experiences and side effects when using a chemotherapy agent
Screen information based on experience or opinions carefully
Once selected, any information source—whether it is a clinical study, a magazine article, or a chapter in a textbook—should be evaluated. An easy way to evaluate a source of information is to use the CHART method described below. Although not every information source will meet all the criteria described below, it will help to separate high-quality information from low-quality information.
The information should be valid, relevant, and unbiased
Is the information based on facts or opinions?
The author(s) should be ethical, fair, objective, and citing sources correctly
Is the author(s) trying to get to the truth or prove a point?
The information should be current, timely, and up to date
Is the information from last year or from 5 years ago?
The information should be useful, balanced, and without a hidden agenda
Does the information appear logical or irrational?
The information should come from a dependable and trusted source
Is the information from a government organization or from a celebrity magazine?
Check Out Clinical Studies
To learn the most about melanoma, it is helpful to read clinical studies from medical journals. These are studies written for doctors by doctors. Although they are not always easy to read, these studies provide the highest quality of information on melanoma. This is because they provide the most current information available and almost always meet the CHART criteria.
There are different types of clinical studies in medical journals. And it is important to know the differences between them—since some are more objective than others. This is because there are different study designs. The design of a clinical study affects the results of a study. The following examples of the most common clinical studies will show how:
Controlled studies, like a Randomized Controlled Clinical Trial (RCCT), are studies that are controlled by an investigator. In these types of studies, patients are recruited to be a part of the study. Then they are randomly assigned to different groups to receive treatment or not (for example, one group may be assigned to receive a cancer drug, and another group may be assigned to receive placebo). This is the best type of study to determine whether a treatment is effective, because the findings are objective and unbiased.
Observational studies, like a Cohort Study or a Case Control Study, are studies where researchers have no control over the different study groups. Instead, researchers find and locate a group of people (like non-smokers) and then observe what happens to them over a period of time. These studies have more opportunities for bias since the researchers are not in control of the study groups.
Clinical experience is a report by a physician that discusses results seen in clinical practice. Because these reports are based on observations—and not objective results of a clinical trial—there may be more room for bias.
Check Out Melanoma Information Online
A melanoma diagnosis is unwelcome news to anyone—both to patients and to those close to them. And such a diagnosis will lead to many questions and concerns. Therefore, it is only natural to search the Internet for more information.
However, when it comes to cancer, it is important to get the information right. Unfortunately, the quality of medical information on the Internet is not always reliable. Some websites don’t provide accurate or complete information on melanoma including risk factors, diagnosis, treatment, prevention, and prognosis. And because information on melanoma is always changing, not all the information available is up-to-date. For example, information on melanoma treatment that was current in 2006 may be inaccurate or incomplete for a diagnosis made today. When in doubt, check with an oncologist to make sure that the information retrieved off the Internet is medically accurate.
One website that patients, caregivers, and oncologists can count on is www.nci.nih.gov. This is a government website for the National Cancer Institute and it provides trustworthy information on melanoma, as well as other cancers. Other recommended websites for accurate and reliable information on melanoma include: