The mammography screening controversy: who and what is heard in the press?

Patient Educ Couns. 2003 Sep;51(1):75-81. doi: 10.1016/s0738-3991(02)00167-2.


The objective of this project was to analyze newspaper coverage of the January 2000 meta-analysis by Gotzsche and Olsen, "Is screening for breast cancer with mammography justified?" [Lancet 355 (2000) 129]. A content analysis was performed on a comprehensive set of newspaper clippings from the UK during the 2 weeks following publication of the Lancet article. The original authors were most quoted in Wave 1 (the first weekend); the screening programme was most quoted in Wave 2 (week 2). Screening programme description, and the "quality" of the Lancet article dominated Wave 1; patient testimonials increased in Wave 2. Newspaper articles were structured as debates between experts and advocates, thereby enhancing polarisation of opinion. We suggest this is counter-productive to evidence-based patient choice and public involvement in decision-making. Medical journals' and charities' press releases that begin to include discussion of uncertainty inherent in medical technologies can contribute to evidence-based public deliberation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Attitude to Health*
  • Breast Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Breast Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Evidence-Based Medicine
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mammography*
  • Mass Media*
  • Mass Screening