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Is it C.R.A.P? How to Separate Fact from Fiction in Online Health

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The prevalence of misinformation online has been growing exponentially in recent years and while some sites are taking steps to prevent the spread of inaccurate, and potentially dangerous, information it has become increasingly important to identify fact from fiction. This is especially important for patients and their loved ones looking for correct health information from reliable sources and away from myths and pseudoscience. So what is the best way to sniff out the truth? Check to see if the information passes the C.R.A.P Test.

C – Currency

How current is the information? Check to see if there is a date associated with the article – either a publication date or a copyright date. A good rule of thumb is to try to look for information that was published as recently, within six months, if possible. Health information especially is always being updated so do a quick scan for a date to ensure what you’re reading is relevant. 

R – Reliability

Check to see if the information is based on research rather than opinion. Does the content cite references and if so are there links to the referenced material? Red flags that could also signal unreliable information is if the article contains a lot of spelling errors, if the website is poorly maintained or difficult to use, and if there is rampant or excessive advertising.

A – Authority

Is the website run by an expert source? One easy way to gauge the authority of a site is to review the domain suffix. If the site ends with a (a Government of Canada domain), a .gov (denoting a government website) or a .edu (reserved for colleges and universities) you can be assured the information on the sites are accurate. Double-check your spelling. A URL with spelling mistakes may direct users to an imitation site. For example, a site ending in might indicate a not-for-profit organization that is not the true government site and it may have content intended to sway opinions.

P – Purpose

Take a critical lens to the website or article you are reading. These days it can be difficult to distinguish an ad from information. Check to see if the article has been sponsored by a company or if it labels itself as an ad or sponsored content. Check to see if the information seems biased and be wary when reading health care articles that use terms like “always” and “never” as these can signal biased content. Also notice if the website asks for your personal information. If so, carefully read the sites privacy policy. 

Want to get right to the source? 

The BC Cancer Library website has a list of recommended websites noted along the right hand side of their page. Find the information you need about cancer types, support, and side effect management all in one spot. To connect with library staff, they can be reached via email at or visit the friendly librarian at your local regional centre.
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