Objective: The use of the news media to disseminate control research could play a pivotal role in reducing the cancer burden. An important first step is to understand how newspapers cover cancer and if differences exist between mainstream and ethnic newspapers.
Methods: Cancer news in the major U.S. (MAJN) (N=5327) and ethnic (ENW) newspapers (N=565) appearing in 2003 were content analyzed. Comparisons of mainstream and ethnic newspapers utilized Pearson x(2) tests of two-sided statistical significance and independent samples t tests for interval-level variables.
Results: Breast cancer dominated coverage: 27% of MAJN and 35% of ENW stories mentioned breast cancer. Coverage focused primarily on cancer treatment (MAJN: 60%; ENW: 52%) rather than on primary or secondary prevention. Compared to mainstream newspapers, the ethnic newspapers required lower literacy levels for understanding news stories, were substantially more likely to cover primary and secondary cancer prevention, and paid more attention to cancer awareness and education.
Conclusions: The ethnic media are a promising vehicle for dissemination of cancer control messages. However, the successful utilization of any U.S. newspaper as a dissemination mechanism requires a greater understanding of the root causes for imbalances in cancer coverage and work with journalists to reframe cancer news coverage.