'A matter of faith, not science'

Analysis of media coverage of prostate cancer screening in Australian news media 2003-2006

Ross MacKenzie, Simon Chapman*, Simon Holding, Kevin McGeechan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

20 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: Despite a near universal absence of evidence-based policies supporting population screening for prostate cancer, the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test is aggressively promoted in the media as a life-saving form of screening. The objective of this study was to examine media coverage of prostate-cancer screening in Australia. Design: Frame analysis of all direct or attributed quotes about prostate cancer. Setting: Australian capital city newspapers (February 2003-December 2006) and Sydney television news (January 2003-December 2006). Main outcome measures: Quotes regarding prostate cancer screening: n=436 in newspapers and television news. Results: Seven rhetorical frames were identified. 86% of all quotes framed prostate screening and its outcomes as desirable, associating PSA testing as being consonant with other early-detection cancer-control messages. Adverse surgical sequelae to screening were often minimized, scientific progress highlighted and gender equity appeals appropriated. Those questioning screening were vilified, with epidemiology being framed as an inferior form of knowledge than clinical experience. Conclusions: Australian men are exposed to unbalanced and often non-evidence-based appeals to seek PSA testing. There is a disturbing lack of effort to redress this imbalance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)513-521
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of the Royal Society of Medicine
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2007
Externally publishedYes

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