Unsafe Environmental Contaminants and Breast Cancer: Website Advisories, Media News Coverage, and Wo...
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Unsafe Environmental Contaminants and Breast Cancer: Website Advisories, Media News Coverage, and Women’s Risk Perceptions Charles Atkin, Sandi Smith, Pam Whitten, Kami Silk & Lauren Hamel Michigan State University. BC Content Emphasis: Similar for Web & Traditional Media

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Unsafe Environmental Contaminants and Breast Cancer: Website Advisories, Media News Coverage, and Women’s Risk Perceptions

Charles Atkin, Sandi Smith, Pam Whitten, Kami Silk & Lauren Hamel

Michigan State University


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BC Content Emphasis: Advisories, Media News Coverage, and Women’s Risk Perceptions

Similar for Web & Traditional Media

Treatment >Detection> Prevention

Within prevention: Collective > Individual

Within individual: Genetics > Environment


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Environmental Safety Info on 157 BC Websites Advisories, Media News Coverage, and Women’s Risk Perceptions


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Coders* evaluated sites based on key healthcom prevention theories

  • Theory of Planned Behavior (Azjen)

    Attitudes, norms, & perceived behavior control

  • Extended Parallel Processing Model (Witte)

    Perceived threat, self efficacy, response efficacy

  • Transtheoretical Model(Prochaska)

    Stages of change


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There’s some contamination content… theories

  • Does the website have a section to inform users about anything in the environment that increases a person's chances of getting breast cancer?

    31% of all BC websites


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# theories Exposures to BC Messages (past year)

  • 9 TV public service spots

  • 8 Magazine stories

  • 8 TV newscast stories

  • 7 Newspaper news/feature items

  • 4 TV talk shows/dramas

    90% saw stories in traditional media

    20% searched internet

    Statewide survey N=250 females (2004)


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Channels for learning useful BC info theories

68% TV newscasts

68% Women’s magazines

67% Newspaper articles

65% Pamphlets

63% TV PSAs

60% TV talk shows

National survey N=250 females (2007)


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Secondary channels… theories

  • 43% Newsmagazines

  • 30% Internet websites

  • 29% TV dramas


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Credibility of BC Info Channels theories(0-10 scale)

  • 7 Newspapers

  • 6 Newsmagazines

  • 6 TV newscasts

  • 5 Health websites

    Statewide survey N=250 females (2004)


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Who seeks BC info? theories

TRADITIONAL MEDIA: Broad cross section

INTERNET: Concerned women, Activists

-- Web traffic primarily driven by diagnosis

-- Activists focus on organized action


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Most-visited BC websites theories

  • breastcancer.org

  • komen.org

  • cancer.gov

    (webmd & acs)

    Lower rank for contaminant-oriented sites:

  • silentspring.org

  • envirocancer.cornell.edu


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Breastcancer.org theories

Antiperspirants Do Not Increase BC Risk

  • Background and study design: The rumor that using underarm deodorant or antiperspirant can cause breast cancer has circulated for years on the Internet….

  • Take-home message: Hopefully, this study will help to calm women's fears about antiperspirant and deodorant use and breast cancer….


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toxicbust.com theories


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Credibility of BC theoriesSources(0-10 scale)

  • 10 American Cancer Society

  • 9 Federal agencies

  • 9 Medical centers

  • 9 Komen Foundation

  • 8 Universities


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Women’s Perceptions of theoriesBC Risk Factors (0-10 scale)

9 Smoking cigarettes

9 Genetics / Family history

7 Hormone Replacement Therapy

7 Secondhand smoke

6 High-fat foods in childhood

6 Obesity in childhood

4 Chemicals / Pesticides 


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Weak relationships between theories BC website visits and…

…level of concern about contaminants

…encouraging daughter to avoid pesticides

…encouraging daughter to avoid

household chemicals

National survey N=250 females (2007)


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Implications… theories

  • Need “better” BC websites:

    esp. Enhance in line with healthcom theory

  • Need to organize content according to distinct motivations of audience segments

  • Need to use traditional media to drive the majority to websites (esp. enhanced sites)


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