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Coverage of common cancer types in UK national newspapers: a content analysis

Coverage of common cancer types in UK national newspapers: a content analysis

BMJ Open 4(7): E004677-E004677

To determine whether recent newspaper coverage of the four most common cancer types relates to their relative burden and national awareness months, and to identify the subject focus during high-coverage periods. Content analysis using the Nexis newspaper article database. UK 2011-2012. Annual number and ranking, monthly proportions and subject of articles on breast, lung, bowel and prostate cancers. 9178 articles were identified during 2011 and 2012 featuring breast (4237), prostate (1757), lung (1746) and bowel (1438) cancer. Peaks in monthly proportions above the 99% upper confidence limit were identified for each. Breast cancer had the highest coverage of 12% and 17% during its awareness month. Smaller peaks (11%) were identified during Bowel Cancer Awareness month. Prostate cancer received high coverage in relation to the case of the man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing who had been diagnosed with the cancer, and lung cancer in relation to the deaths of celebrities. Breast cancer was covered most often overall and by newspaper category while the lower coverage of other cancer types did not consistently mirror the relative number of new cases each year. The peaks by newspaper category were similar to the overall coverage with few exceptions. UK newspaper coverage of common cancer types other than of the breast appears under-represented relative to their population burden. Coverage of breast cancer and bowel cancer appears to be influenced by their awareness months, while that of prostate cancer and lung cancer is influenced by other media stories. Health-promoting public bodies and campaigners could learn from the success of Breast Cancer Awareness Month and work more closely with journalists to ensure that the relevant messages reach wider audiences.

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Accession: 052378129

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PMID: 25015469

DOI: 10.1136/bmjopen-2013-004677

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