Racial Representation Affects Trust for Black Patients Seeking Prostate Cancer Information Online

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Among Black patients with prostate cancer, racial representation may be a key factor affecting their trust in websites offering information on the disease, according to a recent study published by Loeb et al in The Journal of Urology.


Black men may have higher rates of prostate cancer compared with White or Hispanic men.

"Thus, lack of representation could have dangerous consequences such as discouraging screening among Black men," stressed lead study author Stacy Loeb, MD, MSc, PhD (Hon), of NYU Langone Health. 

Study Methods and Results

In the recent study, researchers conducted a series of focus groups involving Black patients with prostate cancer to assess the factors influencing the perceived trustworthiness of online sources of information regarding prostate cancer. Most of the participants stated that they used the internet to seek information on their diagnosis and its treatments. 

The researchers found that the patients viewed Black representation as a critical factor affecting their trust in online information. After one of the participants viewed a website depicting only White patients, they commented: “I don’t see any melanin. This is exactly where they would lose me.”

Many of the participants also noticed a lack of Black physicians pictured on the websites of health-care organizations and advocacy groups. Not seeing Black patients or physicians led some of them to abandon their search for prostate cancer information. One of the participants noted: “As soon as I didn’t see an African American doctor represented in any of the studies, it would kind of turn me off.”

Other factors also affected the participants’ trust in online sources of information. All of them mentioned choosing reputable sources such as leading health-care institutions and national organizations.

The researchers discovered that the participants preferred websites with a “simple [and] professional appearance” and avoided sites that appeared “amateur, disorganized, [or] overly flashy.” They also distrusted sources with any apparent financial conflicts, particularly those selling alternative or herbal therapies. Even for major nonprofit organizations, the participants were wary of sites with fundraising or donation buttons. 


"Our study shows that representation matters to Black patients seeking prostate cancer information online. Not only does it impact trust in the information, but a lack of Black representation in prostate cancer content gave the impression that Black men are at lower risk for prostate cancer,” emphasized Dr. Loeb. "Underrepresentation of Black adults in prostate cancer content has the potential to worsen prostate cancer health disparities. Optimal online communications should include racially diverse representation and evidence-based information in a professional format from reputable sources without financial conflict,” she concluded. 

Disclosure: For full disclosures of the study authors, visit

The content in this post has not been reviewed by the American Society of Clinical Oncology, Inc. (ASCO®) and does not necessarily reflect the ideas and opinions of ASCO®.