Saturday, August 2, 2008

TV 'giving a warped view of cancer rates'

TELEVISION news is giving Australians a warped view of cancer rates by over-publicising cervical and breast cancer and largely ignoring cancers affecting men, researchers have claimed.
An investigation of news and current affairs shows has found that cancers affecting women, like breast, ovarian and cervical cancer, and stories about female celebrities with cancer dominate cancer stories in the media.
The Sydney researchers behind the work say the skewed publicity is giving the Australian public and politicians a confused view about the prevalence and severity of different cancers.
"Although men have higher incidence and mortality from all non-sex specific forms of cancer than women, the public face of cancer in our study was overwhelmingly female," said Kevin McGeechan, a lecturer in the school of public health at the University of Sydney.
The study, published in the latest Medical Journal of Australia, found two cancers were particularly neglected by the media, lung and bowel cancer.
Bowel cancer kills more Australians than any other cancer and is the focus of a national screening campaign but it gets just a third of the coverage of cervical cancer, which has only half the prevalence, Mr McGeechan said.
He said lung cancer, which has the highest death rate, may get little publicity because of a lack of sympathy due to its link with smoking.
"This imbalance in television reportage of cancer may be distorting political and community perceptions about which cancers are most prevalent and tractable and thereby deserving of government and community support, research investment and individual vigilance," Mr McGeechan said.
"For example, breast cancer attracts unparalleled research funding from individuals and governments while other cancers causing more disability struggle to gain a fraction of such support.
"As a former Australian health minister commented 'It's not sexy to have testicular or prostate cancer, so you don't get a run (in the media)'."


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