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Web trawl
  1. Robyn Webber, Web Editor

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    This month’s web trawl looks at two very different web sites, one each from the USA and the UK. What both do have in common, however, is that they may be regarded as national health information resources. This is the web site for SEER (surveillance, epidemiology, and end results); a programme of the National Cancer Institute in the USA. SEER has been collecting detailed statistics on cancer incidence and survival in the USA since 1973, and the result is a wealth of information available through this web site. The home page provides links to all other areas of the site. There are around 50 links listed on this page, which can be overwhelming at first view, but they are ordered by category, with subject areas including databases, statistical software, and data collection tools. A drop down menu provides access to basic statistics with regard to a large number of tumours, all listed by site or organ. For those intending to use material from the site, the basic statistics (or Fast Stats, as they are called), may be accessed immediately, but for access to the more detailed databases, an application form (downloadable from the web site) must be completed and approved. This process, according to the information on the web site, can take around 48 hours. For anyone wishing to obtain statistical data on malignancies in the USA, there are unlikely to be many other web sites providing such comprehensive data, all in the one place. Data are current up to 2002; those wishing more recent data will need to look further afield. The web site does provide a link to the National Cancer Institute’s Cancer Control and Population Sciences web site, which would be a good starting point. This is the web site of the UK’s National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE). From the home page, the site is divided into two separate areas, clinical excellence and public health excellence; each accessed via a link. Each of these separate sites then has its own home page. The clinical excellence home page links to clinical guidelines and appraisals of technology and interventional procedures, as well as to information about how NICE actually works, and to other related organisations such as NHS Direct. The guidelines and appraisals published to date cover many areas of clinical practice. The public health excellence home page again links to guidance and evidence in public health, and also provides links to relevant news and up and coming events. Registration on the site is encouraged, and allows the user the option of receiving email alerts and newsletters, but does not give access to any additional areas on the site. Although the entire NICE web site is largely intended for a UK audience, much of the information in the areas of guidelines and technology appraisal may be of interest to health professionals (and indeed lay people) from other countries. For those living in the UK, this site provides an up to the minute source of information about what is regarded as current best treatment and practice in this country.