Every day patients with cancer and other health issue turn to the Internet to learn about symptoms, causes, and treatments for their conditions. Consumers have many good options for consulting “Dr. Google.” Some websites (like mayoclinic.com) have outstanding credentials for providing medical information. Other sites like PubMed are good places to search for biomedical journal articles.
But not all online biomedical journal articles contain good science.
Science magazine–a premier, peer-reviewed science journal–recently conducted an experiment in which a correspondent submitted a biomedical research paper to open access journals for publication. Open access journals rely on author fees rather than subscriptions. The paper announced a new treatment for cancer derived from lichens. Its science and conclusions were clearly flawed, which should have been caught by each journal’s peer review process. Yet many of the journals published the flawed paper anyway.
This is why I stick to PubMed and journals of demonstrated quality as sources for biomedical articles. It isn’t a foolproof method for finding good science, but it’s better than just googling a topic. You simply can’t believe every headline or abstract you read.