Dr Google Is Actually Helping Queensland's Cancer Researchers

Online searching pinpoints hotspots

Dr Google Is Actually Helping Queensland's Cancer Researchers Pexels

It's not very often we talk about 'Dr Google' being a helpful online service, but Queensland researchers believe the search engine could assist them with their cancer research.

A group of scientists from the University of the Sunshine Coast, QUT and Cancer Council Queensland have found a link between internet searches for melanoma and the number of officially confirmed cases.

Using this link, they were able to flag melanoma hotspots across the state and it's hoped this connection could one day be turned into a way to reduce melanoma cases.

"Every time that someone types into Google a search, Google records that data and we can see in broad areas like Brisbane, Sunshine Coast and Cairns who Googles what, and when. So we compared those regions for people typing in searches for different types of cancers, to cancer statistics from the Queensland cancer registry," said lead researcher Michael Kimlin.

"We found that people did search for things like melanoma and that was associated with melanoma rates. We certainly need to look into this question more, potentially in the future if we do find a strong relationship, we might be able to look at ways we can better deploy in areas that are known melanoma hotspots, through these Google searches."

Kimlin believes melanoma showed a link because they noticeably develop on the outer skin, unlike other cancers that are internal, while the most important thing it that people are following up their online searches with a trip to the doctor.

"We found a relationship between melanoma and Google but we wouldn't have found it unless people actually went to the doctor, got diagnosed and were added to the cancer registry," he said.

"I think it's still a good news story that people are looking at their skin and then immediately seeing the doctor, I think we need to reinforce that."