An analysis of world media reporting of two recent large randomized prospective trials investigating screening for prostate cancer - Abstract

Division of Urology, Department of Surgical Oncology, Princess Margaret Hospital, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.


The publication of two large screening studies for prostate cancer (CaP), the Prostate Lung Colorectal Ovarian Cancer (PLCO) and the European Randomized Study of Screening for Prostate Cancer (ERSPC), has generated intense interest in medical and lay press not only as a result of their robust size, but also their opposing outcomes and differing methodologies, making interpretation controversial. To characterize the world online media response to the studies by assessing reports for quality and message, as well as noting geographical differences.

Major newspapers in North America, UK and Australia reporting online and Internet-only news organizations were analyzed for their reporting of CaP screening in response to the trials for a period of 6 months post-release. Content, positive or negative projection regarding screening, and use of expert commentary were recorded. Statistical analysis of the results was then undertaken.

In total, 48 newspapers reported the CaP screening studies with a median (range) publication time for newsprint online of 1.5 (0-175) days and same day appearance for online news sources in the range 0-110 days. Only 23% of newsprint articles indicated that screening was a positive endeavour, whereas 31% were negative and the remainder were neutral (46%). Some 78% of UK articles indicated insufficient screening, whereas 57% in the USA and 80% in Canada reported screening as being excessive. Online media reflected USA reporting.

World newsprint media in general portrayed screening in a negative light after publication of the ERSPC and PLCO studies. North American media concluded that prostate-specific antigen (PSA) screening was excessive, whereas the UK media indicated that an inadequate level of PSA screening is occurring. The media influences public opinion and government policy and it is important that urological organizations are aware of the true impact.

Written by:
Lawrentschuk N, Daljeet N, Trottier G, Crawley P, Fleshner NE.   Are you the author?

Reference: BJU Int. 2011 Mar 29. Epub ahead of print.
doi: 10.1111/j.1464-410X.2010.09983.x

PubMed Abstract
PMID: 21446935 Prostate Cancer Section