Representing a "revolution": how the popular press has portrayed personalized medicine

Genet Med. 2018 Sep;20(9):950-956. doi: 10.1038/gim.2017.217. Epub 2018 Jan 4.


Purpose: This study investigated the portrayal of "personalized" and "precision" medicine (PM) in North American news over the past decade. Content analysis of print and online news was conducted to determine how PM has been defined and to identify the frames used to discuss PM, including associated topics, benefits, and concerns.

Methods: A data set was built using the FACTIVA database, searching for popular North American publications with the terms "personalized (personalised) medicine" and/or "precision medicine" from 1 January 2005 to 15 March 2016. The final set of publications totaled 774.

Results: PM is almost exclusively defined as related to genetics and is often part of a story related to cancer. The PM story is overwhelmingly one of highlighting (potential) benefits and optimism, especially in shorter publications, and ones where PM is not the main focus. This promotional PM discourse has remained fairly consistent over the past decade.

Conclusion: The numerous concerns associated with PM have received little attention over the past decade, especially in articles more likely to be encountered by a more general audience. This promotion of PM serves as an example of the science hyping that takes place in science reportage and may have implications for consumers, public expectations, and related health policy.

Keywords: content analysis; media; personalized medicine; popular press; precision medicine.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Databases, Factual
  • Humans
  • Mass Media / trends*
  • Precision Medicine / ethics*
  • Precision Medicine / psychology
  • Precision Medicine / trends*
  • Public Opinion

Grant support