Newspaper Reporting about Mammography To Screen for Breast Cancer. Ann Intern Med. 2001;135:S63. doi: 10.7326/0003-4819-135-12-200112180-00002
Download citation file:
Published: Ann Intern Med. 2001;135(12):S63.
Newspaper articles about health topics are an important source of information for the public but may not provide clear, accurate information. Past studies suggest that many newspaper reports contain errors, leave out important information, and don't explain the science behind the health issue.
To describe newspaper stories related to mammography. Mammography is a special type of x-ray used to detect breast cancer. The authors chose this topic because it is controversial: Experts disagree about the value of mammograms in women 40 to 49 years of age, but women need to decide whether or not to have mammography.
The researchers reviewed 225 newspaper stories about mammography. Each was published between 1990 and 1997 in one of six high-circulation newspapers: USA Today, The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, and Houston Chronicle.
Two researchers read each article. They recorded the type of article, the main issue addressed in the article, the sources of information, the identity and role of people and organizations quoted in the article, and what the quotes said. They looked for recommendations about whether women should have mammography. They also recorded how the article described the risk for breast cancer and the benefits of mammography.
Most of the 225 articles focused on mammography for women 40 to 49 years of age. One third of the articles didn't say where their information had come from. Quotations and recommendations mostly supported mammography for women in this age group. The reporters seldom described the uncertainty of the scientific evidence on this issue. The news reports also tended to overstate the potential benefit of mammography for women 40 to 49 years of age and did not convey the controversy among experts on this issue. Their recommendations also rarely reflected the recommendations made by national authorities.
The study included only six newspapers and only articles published from 1990 to 1997. It is unclear whether the quality of newspaper reports is better in more recent years or in other newspapers. This study does not tell us whether the same problems also exist in newspaper stories about other health topics.
Newspaper reporters could improve their stories about mammography for women 40 to 49 years of age by identifying the sources of information included, relying less heavily on a few sources, and framing benefits in terms that the public can understand.
The In the Clinic® slide sets are owned and copyrighted by the American College of Physicians (ACP). All text, graphics, trademarks, and other intellectual property incorporated into the slide sets remain the sole and exclusive property of the ACP. The slide sets may be used only by the person who downloads or purchases them and only for the purpose of presenting them during not-for-profit educational activities. Users may incorporate the entire slide set or selected individual slides into their own teaching presentations but may not alter the content of the slides in any way or remove the ACP copyright notice. Users may make print copies for use as hand-outs for the audience the user is personally addressing but may not otherwise reproduce or distribute the slides by any means or media, including but not limited to sending them as e-mail attachments, posting them on Internet or Intranet sites, publishing them in meeting proceedings, or making them available for sale or distribution in any unauthorized form, without the express written permission of the ACP. Unauthorized use of the In the Clinic slide sets will constitute copyright infringement.
Hematology/Oncology, Breast Cancer, Prevention/Screening.
Results provided by:
Copyright © 2016 American College of Physicians. All Rights Reserved.
Print ISSN: 0003-4819 | Online ISSN: 1539-3704
Conditions of Use
This PDF is available to Subscribers Only