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Impact of news of celebrity illness on breast cancer screening: Kylie Minogue's breast cancer diagnosis

Simon Chapman, Simon Holding, Kim McLeod and Melanie Wakefield
Med J Aust 2005; 183 (5): 247-250.

Summary

Objectives: To describe the main media narratives in the reportage of singer Kylie Minogue’s illness with breast cancer; and to assess the impact of this coverage on bookings for screening for breast cancer by mammography in four Australian states.

Setting: Government sponsored BreastScreen programs in Queensland, Victoria, Tasmania and Western Australia.

Main outcome measures: Narratives on breast cancer in television news programs 17–27 May 2005; initial and re-screening bookings for mammograms.

Participants: Women aged ≥ 40 years who booked for mammograms in BreastScreen programs in the 19 weeks before, the 2 weeks during, and the 6 weeks after the publicity.

Results: There was a 20-fold increase in news coverage of breast cancer, which emphasised that young women do get breast cancer and that early detection was critical. Overall screening bookings rose 40% in the 2 weeks of the publicity, with a 101% increase in non-screened women in the eligible age-group 40–69 years. Six weeks after the publicity, bookings remained more than a third higher in non-screened women.

Conclusions: News coverage of Kylie Minogue’s breast cancer diagnosis caused an unprecedented increase in bookings for mammography. Health advocates should develop anticipatory strategies for responding to news coverage of celebrity illness.

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  • Simon Chapman1
  • Simon Holding2
  • Kim McLeod3
  • Melanie Wakefield4

  • 1 School of Public Health, University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW.
  • 2 Centre for Behavioural Research in Cancer, Cancer Council Victoria, Melbourne, VIC.

Correspondence: 

Acknowledgements: 

We thank the BreastScreen coordinators for rapid provision of data.

Competing interests:

None identified.

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