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Am J Health Promot. 1999 Jan-Feb;13(3):163-70.

An analysis of breast cancer coverage in selected women's magazines, 1987-1995.



Women's magazines are a significant source of health information for many women, but there is some concern that the media may misrepresent a woman's risk of breast cancer. This review analyzes breast cancer articles in selected women's magazines to determine if the information presented is accurate and balanced.


For the years 1987 to 1995, the quantity and content of breast cancer articles were examined in four popular women's magazines and three magazines with a large African-American audience. Fifty-nine lead factual breast cancer articles were analyzed for the information presented on prevention measures, risk factors, incidence/mortality statistics, and lifetime risk. The age at diagnosis for women featured in these articles was also determined.


Breast cancer was the topic of 34.9% of the 585 cancer articles published in these seven magazines. Mammography screening guidelines were recommended in 68% of articles that discussed prevention; 66% presented the American Cancer Society guidelines. Risk factors for breast cancer were reported as age greater than 50 in 41% and family history in 78% of the articles that discussed risk factors. Twenty articles used the lifetime risk statistic of developing breast cancer; six explained what this statistic means. The average age of diagnosis for women featured in the articles was 40.5.


The proportion of breast cancer articles to all cancer articles in these magazines (34.9%) was similar to breast cancer incidence (32.2%) but was higher than its contribution to either female cancer mortality (17.2%) or overall female mortality (4.0%). Magazines that targeted the African-American audience had fewer breast cancer articles than the other four magazines. Risk factors for breast cancer were not discussed in proportion to their impact on risk. The popular lifetime risk statistic was not explained in the majority of cases where it was presented. The average age of diagnosis for the women featured in these articles was far below the median age of diagnosis of 65. Thus, magazine reports may be contributing to women's misunderstanding of their true breast cancer risk.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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