Media Coverage of Lung Cancer Is Increasing—And Increasingly Negative, New Report Shows

More focus on smoking and tobacco use in lung cancer reporting, less on survivorship

NEW YORK, October 28, 2008—CancerCare today announced that despite an overall increase in news reporting on lung cancer, the overall tone of lung cancer media coverage has become significantly more negative. “How the U.S. Media Report on CancerPDF (supplement PDF), an analysis of lung, breast, colorectal and prostate cancer coverage, was an independent report conducted by CARMA International Inc. for CancerCare; previous analyses were issued in 2000 and 2004. The report evaluated volume of coverage for each of the cancer types, topics of discussion, favorability and tone for the period August 2007 through July 2008. CARMA International also conducted a similar analysis of media coverage in the United Kingdom (“How the U.K. Media Report on CancerPDF).

For the first time since the 2000 report, coverage of smoking and tobacco use as it relates to lung cancer increased. Smoking and tobacco use featured prominently in 44 percent of lung cancer coverage—up from 31 percent in the 2003-2004 analysis.

“The prominence of smoking in media reports on lung cancer may be contributing to the stigma that lung cancer patients say they feel, regardless of whether or not they have smoked,” said Diane Blum, Executive Director of CancerCare. “We’re hopeful that research on new screening methods and new treatments will broaden the scope of lung cancer coverage and help reduce the stigma that people with lung cancer feel.”

The report also noted that breast cancer coverage, with the highest favorability rating, often featured personal stories of breast cancer survivors or a celebrity advocating for greater awareness of the disease. In contrast, none of the lung cancer articles and reports analyzed included a lung cancer survivor story, likely contributing to the negative favorability rating. Moreover, of the four cancers analyzed, lung cancer garnered the lowest volume of stories discussing treatment.

Across all four cancers, media reporting on cancer research increased since the 2004 report, accounting for 39 percent of coverage. Cancer treatment remained an important topic for all cancers.

“CancerCare works with lung cancer patients and survivors every day, and we know a lung cancer diagnosis can be frightening for patients, families and caregivers,” said Win Boerckel, CancerCare’s National Lung Cancer Program coordinator. “We encourage the press to consider how they report on lung cancer, specifically the prominence of smoking as a risk factor, and to include survivor stories and resources when possible.”

Lung cancer is the second most diagnosed cancer in men and women (after prostate and breast, respectively). Lung cancer is the number one cause of cancer-related death in both men and women. There are more than 50,000 people who survive lung cancer each year.

Important findings from the analysis include:

  • Cancer research was the most discussed issue in cancer coverage during the 2007-2008 period
  • Of the four cancers, lung cancer had the greatest increase in coverage volume between this period and last period
  • Positive message penetration—that is, stories carrying at least one positive message—declined from 36 percent during the 1999-2000 period to only 28 percent in 2007-2008
  • Of the four cancers analyzed, lung cancer garnered the lowest percentage of stories discussing treatment (24 percent)
  • No lung cancer survivors were quoted in the lung cancer coverage analyzed for the 2007-2008 period

CancerCare’s National Lung Cancer Program offers free education and counseling services to people facing lung cancer and their loved ones. Find out more at www.lungcancer.org or call 1-800-812-HOPE (4673).

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