Date: 24 May 2014

Have screening harms become newsworthy? News coverage of prostate and colorectal cancer screening since the 2008 USPSTF recommendation changes

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Abstract

In 2008, the US Preventive Services Task Force updated its recommendations to discourage screening for prostate cancer in men over 75 and for colorectal cancer in adults over 85. We aimed to determine whether newspapers portrayed these screenings differently after these recommendation changes. A quantitative content analysis included articles on prostate-specific antigen (PSA) testing or colonoscopy in US newspapers from 2005 to 2012. Outcomes included the number of benefits and harms mentioned and the gist expert and lay readers might get from articles. Benefits in PSA articles (n = 222) and harms and benefits in colonoscopy articles (n = 65) did not change over time. Mentions of PSA harms increased after 2008 (p < .01). Expected expert gist of PSA articles became more negative after 2008 (p < .01). Expected lay gist was positive and did not change. News coverage of PSA testing harms increased without a decrease in the discussion of benefits. Consumers, especially lay consumers, are receiving unbalanced information on cancer screening.