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J Health Commun. 2008 Jan-Feb;13(1):3-19. doi: 10.1080/10810730701806912.

A comprehensive analysis of breast cancer news coverage in leading media outlets focusing on environmental risks and prevention.

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  • 1Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan 48824, USA.


Breast cancer has a high profile in the news media, which are a major source of information for cancer patients and the general public. To determine the nature of breast cancer news coverage available to audiences, particularly on the topics of environmental risks and prevention, this content analysis measured a broad array of dimensions in 231 stories appearing in nine leading newspapers, newsmagazines, and television networks in 2003 and 2004. One fourth of all stories reported on various risks such as hormone replacement therapy (HRT) use. Very few items specifically addressed risks related to controllable lifestyle practices such as prepubertal obesity or chemical contaminants in the environment. About one third of the stories included prevention content, primarily focusing narrowly on use of pharmaceutical products. Little information described risk reduction via other individual preventive behaviors (e.g., diet, exercise, and smoking), parental protective measures, or collective actions to combat contamination sites. The more traditional categories of prevalence, detection, and treatment were featured in one third, one quarter, and two fifths of the news items, respectively. There were twice as many stories featuring personal narratives as statistical figures, and two thirds of all the news items cited expert medical professionals, researchers, or organizations. Implications of these findings and directions for future research are addressed.

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