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Purpose:

Approximately 90 million American adults have literacy skills that test below a high school reading level. Websites written above this level can pose a challenge for those seeking online information about prostate cancer treatment options. In this study we determine the readability of selected websites using a systematic search process and validated readability formulas.

Materials and Methods:

We identified the 3 most popular keywords from 513 terms related to prostate cancer treatment options. We then systematically collected 270 websites from the top 3 search engines, and excluded from study those that were nonEnglish, not primarily text, irrelevant and/or duplicated. We used the Flesch-Kincaid grade level and Flesch Reading Ease to determine scores for each site.

Results:

A total of 62 unique websites were analyzed. Median Flesch-Kincaid grade level was 12.0 (range 8.0 to 12.0) and median Flesch Reading Ease score was 38.1 (range 0.0 to 65.5). Only 3 sites (4.8%) were written below a high school reading level (less than 9.0).

Conclusions:

Few websites with discussions on prostate cancer treatment options are written below a high school reading level. This is problematic for a third of Americans who seek to further educate themselves using online resources. Clinicians can use this information to guide their patients to appropriate websites.

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Loyola University Medical Center, Maywood, Illinois

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