Journal of Cancer Education

, Volume 25, Issue 4, pp 565-570

First online:

“No Respecter of Youth”: Over-representation of Young Women in Australian Television Coverage of Breast Cancer

  • Ross MacKenzieAffiliated withSchool of Public Health A27, University of Sydney
  • , Simon ChapmanAffiliated withSchool of Public Health A27, University of Sydney Email author 
  • , Simon HoldingAffiliated withSchool of Public Health A27, University of Sydney
  • , Annie StivenAffiliated withSchool of Public Health A27, University of Sydney

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Ninety four percent of new breast cancer cases in Australian women occur in those aged over 40. Mammographic breast screening programs target women over 40, especially those aged 50-69, but participation rates in this age group have recently declined. To test the hypothesis that young women, at low risk for breast cancer, are overrepresented in television news, we analyzed all televised news reports on age and breast cancer shown on five free-to-air Sydney television stations, from 3 May 2005 to 28 February 2007, to determine the age of women shown with, or at risk for, the disease. Over half (55%) of statements about age and breast cancer referred to young women stated or known to be aged under 40. Sixty seven percent of images of women in breast cancer reports were known or judged to be women aged under 40. Three cases in young celebrity women accounted for 53% of all statements and 24% of all images about young women and breast cancer. Overrepresentation of young women with breast cancer in television news coverage does not reflect the epidemiology of the disease. This imbalance may contribute to public uncertainty regarding screening policy.


Breast cancer Screening Policy Media coverage