The field of cancer communication has undergone a major revolution as a result of the Internet. As recently as the early 90s, face-to-face, print, and the telephone were the dominant methods of communication between health professionals and individuals in support of the prevention and treatment of cancer. Computer-supported interactive media existed, but usually required sophisticated computer and video platforms that limited availability. The introduction of point and click interfaces for the Internet dramatically improved the ability of non-expert computer users to obtain and publish information electronically on "the web." Demand for web access has driven computer sales for the home setting and improved the availability, capability and affordability of desktop computers. New advances in information and computing technologies will lead to similarly dramatic changes in the affordability and accessibility of computers. Computers will move from the desktop into the environment and onto the body. Computers are becoming smaller, faster, more sophisticated, more responsive, less expensive, and-essentially-ubiquitous. Computers are evolving into much more than desktop communication devices. New computers include sensing, monitoring, geospatial tracking, just-in-time knowledge presentation, and a host of other information processes. The challenge for cancer communication researchers is to acknowledge the expanded capability of the web and move beyond approaches to health promotion, behavior change, and communication that emerged during an era when language- or image-based interpersonal and mass communication strategies predominated. Ecological theory has been advanced since the early 1900s to explain the highly complex relationships between and among individuals, society, organizations, the built and natural environments and personal and population health and well-being. This paper provides background on ecological theory, advances an "Ecological Model of Internet-based Cancer Communication" intended to broaden the vision of the potential uses of the Internet for cancer communication, and provides some examples of how such a model might inform future research and development in cancer communication.
Internet, cancer communication, ecological momentary assessment, ecological momentary intervention, ubiquitous computing, ecological models, health behavior