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Novel Data Sources for Women's Health Research

Mapping Breast Screening Online Information Seeking Through Google Trends

      Rationale and Objectives

      Millions of people use online search engines everyday to find health-related information and voluntarily share their personal health status and behaviors in various Web sites. Thus, data from tracking of online information seeker's behavior offer potential opportunities for use in public health surveillance and research. Google Trends is a feature of Google which allows Internet users to graph the frequency of searches for a single term or phrase over time or by geographic region. We used Google Trends to describe patterns of information-seeking behavior in the subject of dense breasts and to examine their correlation with the passage or introduction of dense breast notification legislation.

      Materials and Methods

      To capture the temporal variations of information seeking about dense breasts, the Web search query “dense breast” was entered in the Google Trends tool. We then mapped the dates of legislative actions regarding dense breasts that received widespread coverage in the lay media to information-seeking trends about dense breasts over time.

      Results

      Newsworthy events and legislative actions appear to correlate well with peaks in search volume of “dense breast”. Geographic regions with the highest search volumes have passed, denied, or are currently considering the dense breast legislation.

      Conclusions

      Our study demonstrated that any legislative action and respective news coverage correlate with increase in information seeking for “dense breast” on Google, suggesting that Google Trends has the potential to serve as a data source for policy-relevant research.

      Key Words

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