Assertions of Japanese Websites for and Against Cancer Screening: a Text Mining Analysis

Document Type: Research Articles

Authors

Department of Health Communication, School of Public Health, The University of Tokyo, Japan.

Abstract

 
Background: Cancer screening rates are lower in Japan than in Western countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom. While health professionals publish pro-cancer-screening messages online to encourage proactive seeking for screening, anti-screening activists use the same medium to warn readers against following guidelines. Contents of pro- and anti-cancer-screening sites may contribute to readers’ acceptance of one or the other position. We aimed to use a text-mining method to examine frequently appearing contents on sites for and against cancer screening. Methods: We conducted online searches in December 2016 using two major search engines in Japan (Google Japan and Yahoo! Japan). Targeted websites were classified as "pro", "anti", or "neutral" depending on their claims, with the author(s) classified as "health professional", "mass media", or "layperson". Text-mining analyses were conducted, and statistical analysis was performed using the chi-square test. Results: Of the 169 websites analyzed, the top-three most frequently appearing content topics in pro sites were reducing mortality via cancer screening, benefits of early detection, and recommendations for obtaining detailed examination. The top three most frequent in anti-sites were harm from radiation exposure, non-efficacy of cancer screening, and lack of necessity of early detection. Anti-sites also frequently referred to a well-known Japanese radiologist, Makoto Kondo, who rejects the standard forms of cancer care. Conclusion: Our findings should enable authors of pro-cancer-screening sites to write to counter misleading anti-cancer-screening messages and facilitate dissemination of accurate information.

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