Readability Comparison of Pro- and Anti-Cancer Screening Online Messages in Japan

Document Type : Research Articles


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


Background: Cancer screening rates are lower in Japan than those in western countries. Health professionals publish pro-cancer screening messages on the internet to encourage audiences to undergo cancer screening. However, the information provided is often difficult to read for lay persons. Further, anti-cancer screening activists warn against cancer screening with messages on the Internet. We aimed to assess and compare the readability of pro- and anti-cancer screening online messages in Japan using a measure of readability. Methods: We conducted web searches at the beginning of September 2016 using two major Japanese search engines ( and Yahoo!.jp). The included websites were classified as "anti", "pro", or "neutral" depending on the claims, and "health professional" or "non-health professional" depending on the writers. Readability was determined using a validated measure of Japanese readability. Statistical analysis was conducted using two-way ANOVA. Results: In the total 159 websites analyzed, anti-cancer screening online messages were generally easier to read than pro-cancer screening online messages, Messages written by health professionals were more difficult to read than those written by non-health professionals. Claim × writer interaction was not significant. Conclusion: When health professionals prepare pro-cancer screening materials for publication online, we recommend they check for readability using readability assessment tools and improve text for easy comprehension when necessary.