Communication About Hereditary Cancers on Social Media: A Content Analysis of Tweets About Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer and Lynch Syndrome

  • Caitlin G. AllenEmail author
  • Megan Roberts
  • Brittany Andersen
  • Muin J. Khoury


Social media is increasingly being used as an information source and tool for individuals and organizations to share resources and engage in conversations about health topics. Because the public tends to learn about health topics and genetics from online social media sources, it is imperative to understand the amount, type, and quality of information being shared. We performed a retrospective analysis of tweets related to hereditary breast and ovarian cancer (HBOC) and Lynch syndrome (LS) between January 1, 2017 and December 31, 2017. A total of 63,770 tweets were included in our dataset. The majority were retweets (59.9%) and users came from 744 different cities. Most tweets were considered “informational” (51.4%) and were designed to provide resources to the public. Online communities (25%), organizations (20%), and providers or researchers (15%) were among the most common contributors. Our results demonstrated that conversations were primarily focused on information and resource sharing, along with individuals discussing their personal stories and testimonials about their experiences with these HBOC and LS. Future studies could consider ways to harness Twitter to help tailor and deliver health communication campaigns and education interventions to improve the public’s understanding of these complex topics.


Hereditary cancer Lynch syndrome Breast cancer Social media Health communication Twitter 


Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© American Association for Cancer Education 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Rollins School of Public HealthEmory UniversityAtlantaUSA
  2. 2.The National Cancer InstituteRockvilleUSA
  3. 3.Boston UniversityBostonUSA
  4. 4.Office of Public Health GenomicsCenters for Disease Control and PreventionAtlantaUSA

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