Consumption of ultra-processed foods and cancer risk: results from NutriNet-Santé prospective cohort is a web-based survey looking at the association of cancer risk and consuming ultra-processed foods in people in France who responded to a survey. Population-based cohort studies were previously done by calling people’s landlines, asking them to fill out surveys, and requesting that they drive to the clinic for a health examination.
Perhaps further epidemiological studies will be done primarily using online surveys, as the authors did in this paper. It would make epidemiological studies much less expensive and more readily available. But the validity of the results have not yet been verified.
Using the internet selects for younger people responding to the survey. This may not be representative of the larger population. But as these generations age, using the internet for data collection may be a useful tool.
The internet is an anonymous place, and it is difficult to understand the population that is being studied when using the World Wide Web as the only data collection vehicle. This may be a worth-while sacrifice for the convenience of bypassing what has historically been the most arduous part of studying the public’s health.