Send to

Choose Destination
Health Commun. 2014;29(4):332-46. doi: 10.1080/10410236.2012.755603. Epub 2013 Jun 21.

Content and effects of news stories about uncertain cancer causes and preventive behaviors.

Author information

a Department of Communication , Cornell University.


This article presents findings from two studies that describe news portrayals of cancer causes and prevention in local TV and test the effects of typical aspects of this coverage on cancer-related fatalism and overload. Study 1 analyzed the content of stories focused on cancer causes and prevention from an October 2002 national sample of local TV and newspaper cancer coverage (n = 122 television stations; n = 60 newspapers). Informed by results from the content analysis, Study 2 describes results from a randomized experiment testing effects of the volume and content of news stories about cancer causes and prevention (n = 601). Study 1 indicates that local TV news stories describe cancer causes and prevention as comparatively more certain than newspapers but include less information about how to reduce cancer risk. Study 2 reveals that the combination of stories conveying an emerging cancer cause and prevention behavior as moderately certain leads to an increased sense of overload, while a short summary of well-established preventive behaviors mitigates these potentially harmful beliefs. We conclude with a series of recommendations for health communication and health journalism practice.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Loading ...
Support Center