Objective: Japanese weekly magazines, which have a circulation of over 2 700 000, play important roles in communicating with the public. They offer a wide range of information, entertainment, gossip, politics and economics, and often include articles on cancer. However, cancer articles in magazines have not been systematically analyzed.
Methods: We investigated cancer-related articles and advertisements in six major Japanese weekly magazines to demonstrate trends in public interest regarding cancer.
Results: The total number of articles assessed from July 2009 to December 2010 was 36 914, of which 696 (1.9%) were cancer articles. The total number of advertisements was 21 718, of which 340 (1.6%) were related to cancer. The number of cancer articles demonstrated an upward trend during the study period. Articles focused on lung (n = 145) and urogenital cancer (n = 122). The most common content comprised therapies and diagnosis (n = 340) and case reports on individual patients (n = 160). After a famous Japanese comedian revealed his prostate cancer diagnosis, the number of articles on prostate cancer increased from 2.0 to 6.6 per month. Immunotherapy including some dubious folk therapies was the most frequently reported cancer therapy in articles and advertisements (30.4%). A small group of oncologists were repeatedly referred to in comment sources; 35.6% of comments were presented by only five doctors.
Conclusions: Cancer articles in weekly magazines are common paper media for providing cancer information to the public. However, the information provided might place emphasis on unestablished treatments or biased opinions.