How Are the Links between Alcohol Consumption and Breast Cancer Portrayed in Australian Newspapers?: A Paired Thematic and Framing Media Analysis

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2021 Jul 19;18(14):7657. doi: 10.3390/ijerph18147657.


A dose-dependent relationship between alcohol consumption and increased breast cancer risk is well established, even at low levels of consumption. Australian women in midlife (45-64 years) are at highest lifetime risk for developing breast cancer but demonstrate low awareness of this link. We explore women's exposure to messages about alcohol and breast cancer in Australian print media in the period 2002-2018.

Methods: Paired thematic and framing analyses were undertaken of Australian print media from three time-defined subsamples: 2002-2004, 2009-2011, and 2016-2018.

Results: Five key themes arose from the thematic framing analysis: Ascribing Blame, Individual Responsibility, Cultural Entrenchment, False Equilibrium, and Recognition of Population Impact. The framing analysis showed that the alcohol-breast cancer link was predominantly framed as a behavioural concern, neglecting medical and societal frames.

Discussion: We explore the representations of the alcohol and breast cancer risk relationship. We found their portrayal to be conflicting and unbalanced at times and tended to emphasise individual choice and responsibility in modifying health behaviours. We argue that key stakeholders including government, public health, and media should accept shared responsibility for increasing awareness of the alcohol-breast cancer link and invite media advocates to assist with brokering correct public health information.

Keywords: Australian newspapers; alcohol; breast cancer; framing analysis; media analysis.

MeSH terms

  • Alcohol Drinking / epidemiology
  • Australia / epidemiology
  • Breast Neoplasms* / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mass Media
  • Public Health