, Volume 25, Issue 4, pp 565-570
Date: 25 Mar 2010

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

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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.

Received from the School of Public Health, Edward Ford Building (A27) University of Sydney, NSW 2006 Australia.
Supported by The Cancer Council New South Wales.