A Journal investigation found misinformation about cancer treatment widely available on social-media sites. The Journal spoke to dozens of oncologists, patients, lawyers, privacy experts and company representatives, and quantified the reach of several social-media accounts that promoted scientifically unvalidated cancer therapies.
As of Monday, YouTube videos viewed millions of times were among the postings advocating the use of a cell-killing, or necrotizing, ointment called black salve to treat skin cancer. Use of the ointment can inadvertently burn or kill healthy skin, and doesn’t remove cancerous growths beneath the skin, as is claimed in some videos, said David Gorski, a professor of surgery at Wayne State University School of Medicine in Detroit who edits the blog Science-Based Medicine. The wounds could also lead to infection.
According to Dr. Gorski, misinformation about cancer on the internet is as much of a public-health issue as antivaccine misinformation. “It’s hard to argue which one is the worst,” he said.
Often the videos and social-media postings are connected with online businesses seeking to generate sales of books, supplements and unproven products.
A Facebook page with more than 60,000 likes promotes baking-soda injections and juicing regimens to treat cancer sold by a supplement salesman named Robert O. Young. Mr. Young was convicted in a San Diego County court in 2016 for practicing medicine without a license.