Dr. Yaacov Lawrence of the Jefferson Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University and colleagues compared Wikipedia sections on cancer with the information found on the patient-oriented section of the National Cancer Institute's Physician Data Query, a comprehensive peer-reviewed cancer database.
"The purpose of this study was to answer one question: Is the cancer information on Wikipedia correct? Reassuringly, we found that errors were extremely rare on Wikipedia," Lawrence, the study leader, said in a statement. "But the way information was presented on Physician Data Query is more patient-friendly."
Lawrence, Malolan Rajagopalan, a medical student from the University of Pittsburgh, and medical school volunteers compared key factual statements for 10 cancers provided by the Physician Data Query information, with those posted on Wikipedia.
Inaccuracies at either Web site were extremely rare -- less than 2 percent of the information on either site was discordant with textbook information. However, the Physician Data Query was written at a ninth-grade level while Wikipedia was written at the college level.
The finding was presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology annual meeting in Chicago.