Objectives: To describe the main media narratives in the reportage of singer Kylie Minogue's illness with breast cancer; and to assess the impact of this coverage on bookings for screening for breast cancer by mammography in four Australian states.
Setting: Government sponsored BreastScreen programs in Queensland, Victoria, Tasmania and Western Australia.
Main outcome measures: Narratives on breast cancer in television news programs 17-27 May 2005; initial and re-screening bookings for mammograms.
Participants: Women aged > or = 40 years who booked for mammograms in BreastScreen programs in the 19 weeks before, the 2 weeks during, and the 6 weeks after the publicity.
Results: There was a 20-fold increase in news coverage of breast cancer, which emphasised that young women do get breast cancer and that early detection was critical. Overall screening bookings rose 40% in the 2 weeks of the publicity, with a 101% increase in non-screened women in the eligible age-group 40-69 years. Six weeks after the publicity, bookings remained more than a third higher in non-screened women.
Conclusions: News coverage of Kylie Minogue's breast cancer diagnosis caused an unprecedented increase in bookings for mammography. Health advocates should develop anticipatory strategies for responding to news coverage of celebrity illness.