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Health Commun. 2007;21(2):165-75.

Differing effects of mass and interpersonal communication on breast cancer risk estimates: an exploratory study of college students and their mothers.

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Department of Communication Studies, Clemson University, Clemson, South Carolina 29634, USA.


Research has demonstrated that women tend to overestimate the percentage of all breast cancers that result from genetic predispositions, and this article examines the knowledge of college students, as well as their mothers, on this subject, applying uncertainty management (Brashers, 2001) as the theoretical framework. The authors build on the literature by studying (a) the types of media outlets college students and their mothers use for securing information, and (b) the types of articles and programs within those outlets that may affect risk perceptions. The authors also address associations between these mass communication measures and interpersonal sources of information in the context of risk estimation. Respondents exposed to media reports about the role of genetics in breast cancer, in addition to study participants who had discussed this role within the family, tended to overestimate measures of genetic risk. Conversely, those who had attended to media reports about screening practices tended to offer lower risk estimates, indicating that such reports may have positioned genetics as just one factor in the overall equation of breast cancer risk. The authors discuss the implications of these and other findings for communication scholars and health practitioners.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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