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Google Searches May Lead to False Medical Information

Search under word 'aloe' generated sponsored link claiming aloe is adjuvant cancer therapy

FRIDAY, March 20 (HealthDay News) -- Google keyword searches may generate sponsored links to Web pages that contain misleading medical claims, according to a Views & Reviews article published online March 18 in BMJ.

Marco Masoni, a researcher at the University of Florence, Italy, and colleagues searched Google Italia with the keyword "aloe" and on the first page of results, their search generated two sponsored links, the first of which stated: "Aloe vera or arborescens? http://www.aziendaagricolaghignone.it. To purify use aloe [Aloe vera], but in chemotherapy it must be arborescens [Aloe arborescens]."

After visiting the Web site, the authors found a statement declaring that the most important use of Aloe arborescens is as an adjuvant treatment with chemotherapy and is recommended for preparation as a traditional therapy or when other therapies give no results. They also found that the Web site sold Aloe arborescens for $170 a liter.

"We think that Google's filters must be improved further," the authors write. "Showing an advertisement that links aloe and cancer in response to a query with only the single keyword 'aloe' is inappropriate. Worse yet is when the Web site linked to has false medical claims. If improving the filter is too complex, it would be better simply not to display sponsored links in results of searches on medical terms or products."

An editorial note states that bmj.com previously had advertisements provided through Google's AdWords service but that it discontinued them because of reader complaints about inappropriate matches between editorial content and ads.

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