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Study finds media coverage of breast cancer focuses too little on prevention
Date:4/15/2008

News coverage of breast cancer focuses too much on treatments and not enough on prevention, a trend that could prove risky in the long run for many women, say researchers at Michigan State University.

An MSU analysis of national medias coverage of the disease found that over a two-year period, 31 percent of the 231 stories that appeared in some of the countrys top newspapers, magazines and television networks focused on treatment, while only 18 percent looked at prevention.

The research paper, titled A Comprehensive Analysis of Breast Cancer News Coverage in Leading Media Outlets Focusing on Environmental Risks and Prevention, is published in the latest edition of the Journal of Health Communication.

What were concerned about is people will think, well, the scientists are going to come up with a cure, so we dont need to worry about prevention, said Charles Atkin, one of the authors of the study and a University Distinguished Professor of communication at MSU. I think this emphasis on treatment, especially so-called breakthroughs, may lead to complacency.

In 2003 and 2004, Atkin and colleagues analyzed breast-cancer coverage in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, USA Today, Time, Newsweek, U.S. News and World Report, NBC Nightly News, ABC World News Tonight and the CBS Evening News.

The researchers found that by a two-to-one margin, the news stories focused more on narratives personal stories of cancer patients rather than on data and statistics. And, said Atkin, while this can provide more compelling stories for readers and viewers, it doesnt do much to help further the cause of cancer prevention.

The biggest single type of story was about breast cancer treatment, and narratives lend themselves much better to that kind of story, he said. Stories about prevention, about people exercising and eating right, just dont make great copy.

While many of the factors that can lead to breast cancer are bey
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Contact: Tom Oswald
oswald@msu.edu
517-432-0920
Michigan State University
Source:Eurekalert

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