CONTEXT: Women commonly misunderstand their risk for breast cancer, overestimating both their risk for developing the disease at a young age and their lifetime risk. OBJECTIVE: To determine whether age bias occurs in popular media coverage of breast cancer. SELECTION STRATEGY: The search term breast cancer was used to identify 389 articles in U.S. magazines with a circulation of at least 500,000 published between January 1, 1993, and June 30, 1997. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Presence of age-related themes and age of patients with breast cancer who were described in vignettes. RESULTS: Age-related themes included breast cancer as a cause of premature death, breast cancer in mothers of young children, and the impact of a breast cancer diagnosis on dating and marriage. Factual information about age as a risk factor for breast cancer was presented in only 14% of articles, and age was often included in vignettes describing a woman with breast cancer. Thirty-four percent of the articles included one or more breast cancer vignettes. These articles included 172 unique vignettes in which patient age was described. In 84% of the vignettes (144 of 172), women were diagnosed with breast cancer before 50 years of age; in 47% (80 of 172), women were diagnosed before 40 years of age. On the basis of the age-specific incidence of breast cancer in the United States, the expected percentages would be 16% and 3.6%, respectively. CONCLUSIONS: Stories about breast cancer in popular U.S. magazines misrepresent the age distribution of the disease, emphasizing atypical cases of early-onset breast cancer and their social consequences. This presentation of breast cancer may contribute to women's fears of breast cancer and to overestimates of personal risk.
|Original language||English (US)|
|Number of pages||7|
|Journal||Effective clinical practice : ECP|
|State||Published - Jan 1 2001|
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