"The news is [not] all good": misrepresentations and inaccuracies in Australian news media reports on prostate cancer screening

Med J Aust. 2007 Nov 5;187(9):507-10. doi: 10.5694/j.1326-5377.2007.tb01391.x.


Objective: To list and critically review recent inaccurate statements made by advocates of prostate cancer screening in Australian news media.

Design: Accuracy audit of all news on prostate cancer broadcast on Sydney footprint free-to-air television stations between 2 May 2005 and 18 December 2006 (42 items), and published in print media from 6 February 2003 to 31 December 2006 in Australian capital cities (388 items). These contained 436 direct or attributed statements.

Results: Of the 436 statements analysed, 44 (10%) were factually inaccurate or made claims not supported by the scientific literature or most cancer control agencies. Misleading statements about prostate screening and its sequelae were found in five categories: mortality from prostate cancer; expert agency support for screening; the efficacy of screening in preventing death from prostate cancer and the importance of early detection; the accuracy of the prostate-specific antigen test; and prevalence and severity of adverse effects from treatment.

Conclusions: Despite near universal lack of support for prostate cancer screening of asymptomatic men by leading international and Australian cancer control agencies, Australians are exposed to an unbalanced stream of encouragement to seek testing. This coverage includes inaccurate information which ignores scientific evidence and the general lack of expert agency support.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Australia
  • Early Diagnosis
  • Evidence-Based Medicine
  • Health Education
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mass Media*
  • Mass Screening*
  • Prostate-Specific Antigen / blood
  • Prostatectomy / adverse effects
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / mortality
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Radiotherapy, Adjuvant / adverse effects


  • Prostate-Specific Antigen