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Health Commun. 2014;29(2):173-81. doi: 10.1080/10410236.2012.732027. Epub 2013 Mar 13.

Agenda-setting effects of sun-related news coverage on public attitudes and beliefs about tanning and skin cancer.

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  • 1a Centre for Behavioural Research in Cancer Cancer Council Victoria.

Abstract

The topics and framing of news stories relevant to skin cancer prevention have shifted over time. This study examined agenda-setting effects of such news stories on public attitudes and beliefs about tanning and skin cancer. Content analysis data on 516 articles published in two major daily newspapers in Melbourne, Australia, from 1994 to 2007 were combined with circulation data to generate indices of potential news exposure. Associations between these indices and cross-sectional telephone survey data from the same period on 6,244 adults' tanning attitudes and perceived susceptibility to skin cancer were examined using logistic regression models, accounting for the temporal precedence of news content. Pro-sun protection stories on attitudes and behavior were associated with older adults not thinking a tan looks healthy. Pro-sun protection stories on solaria were associated with less preference for a deep tan among young adults who like to suntan. Stories on vitamin D that were unsupportive of or ambiguous about sun protection were associated with a number of pro-tan attitudes among younger adults. Results indicate news coverage during 1994-2007 served an important agenda-setting role in explaining the public's attitudes and beliefs about tanning and skin cancer. Vitamin D stories appeared most influential, particularly among young adults.

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