Background: Patients with cancer and their families frequently, and increasingly, turn to outside sources for information, particularly the World Wide Web. Our objective was to examine the use of the Internet and its impact among patients with melanoma. Methods: A prospective survey was obtained from 1613 consecutive patients with cutaneous melanoma seen at our institution between August 2001 and February 2003. Main outcome measures included the ability to access the Internet, Internet use to search for melanoma information, and responses to such Internet searches. Further analysis of whether there were differences based on age, sex, or disease severity was performed. Results: Of patients with melanoma, 39% indicated that they had used the Internet to research their disease, 30% themselves and 9% had someone else do it for them. Nearly half (47%) of patients younger than 40 years researched melanoma on the Internet compared with only 12% of patients 60 years or older. Neither sex nor disease severity impacted Internet use. The vast majority of patients (94%) thought the Internet was useful, 67% believed it helped them better understand their condition, and 45% said they would recommend using the Internet to others to find information about medical conditions. Roughly a third thought it decreased their anxiety, whereas a similar proportion believed the Internet made them more anxious. Increased anxiety correlated with decreasing age and increasing disease severity. Conclusions: The use of the Internet is common among patients with melanoma. Anxiety attributed to online information about their disease suggests that clinicians caring for patients with melanoma should familiarize themselves with online melanoma information, and be proactive in assisting their patients in using this resource.
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