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YouTube says it's now removing videos promoting cancer misinformation. A Yale oncologist weighs in

Starting on August 15, 2023 - YouTube will begin cracking down on cancer misinformation.
Nikolas Kokovlis
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Starting on August 15, 2023 - YouTube will begin cracking down on cancer misinformation.

Starting today, YouTube will remove medical misinformation surrounding cancer treatment, Dr. Garth Graham, head of YouTube Health, said in a blog post.

Graham said “content that promotes unproven treatments in place of approved care or as a guaranteed cure, and treatments that have been specifically deemed harmful by health authorities,” would be removed. For example, videos claiming “garlic cures cancer,” or “take vitamin C instead of radiation therapy.”

Misinformation can deeply prey "on the hope of our patients who have cancer," said Dr. Pamela Kunz, a professor and oncologist at Yale Cancer Center and Smilow Cancer Hospital.

The move is welcome, Kunz said, but it’s a challenging one.

“I think that it may be tricky to figure out how to implement that,” Kunz said. “To have that be a stated goal is really important.”

Patients should check any online health claim with their doctors, she said.

“Bring in these questions about garlic, or bananas or really restrictive diets, you know, bring those to your treating team,” she said. “And if it's an extra supplement or a vitamin that we feel like may not be harmful, we may say that it's okay. But if it's something that we don't have sufficient data, or we feel that it could be harmful in some way, or interact with your current treatment plan, we are going to recommend against it.”

YouTube is publishing a playlist of cancer-related videos, and is collaborating with Mayo Clinic on new content.

Sujata Srinivasan is Connecticut Public Radio’s senior health reporter. Prior to that, she was a senior producer for Where We Live, a newsroom editor, and from 2010-2014, a business reporter for the station.

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