4192.0: Tuesday, November 14, 2000 - 2:30 PM

Abstract #17240

Media Reporting of Genetic Discoveries: Disseminating Information About the Breast and Prostate Cancer Susceptibility Genes

Gail Geller, ScD, Ellen S. Tambor, MA, Barbara A. Bernhardt, MS, Eliza Mountcastle Shah, PhD, Neil A. Holtzman, MD, MPH, and Reda Karaliukas. Genetics & Public Policy Studies, Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions, 550 N. Broadway, Suite 511, Baltimore, MD 21205, (410) 955-7894, ggeller@jhmi.edu

Many Americans rely on the mass media for scientific information. Assuming this is true for genetic discoveries, how the media covers such news may influence consumers' understanding of the application of genetic technologies. As part of a larger study to describe and improve reporting of new genetic discoveries, we developed a system for assessing the Accuracy, Balance and Content (ABC) of such media reports. This paper summarizes our ABC analysis of 50 media stories about the breast cancer susceptibility genes (BRCA1/2) and 15 stories about the prostate cancer susceptibility gene (HPC-1). Thirty-eight were newspaper stories, 13 were from wire services, 8 from magazines and 6 from television or radio. First, we will review headlines and lead sentences in these stories to show their variability and potential for misinterpretation. Second, we will describe the methodology for developing our coding form and for selecting stories, and present scores for the breast and prostate cancer stories. Results indicate that there is variation in the accuracy and content of stories emanating from each discovery, and how they balance the positive and negative implications of the discoveries. Although there are some false statements, most errors are ones of omission rather than commission. For example, although most stories correctly reported the broad implications of the genetic discovery, fewer than 50% made clear that the discoveries pertain to a specific subgroup of high risk families. Because of such omissions, people may believe that discovery of new genes will have immediate implications for broad segments of the population.

Learning Objectives: N/A

Keywords: Bioethics, Genetics

Presenting author's disclosure statement:
Organization/institution whose products or services will be discussed: None
I do not have any significant financial interest/arrangement or affiliation with any organization/institution whose products or services are being discussed in this session.

The 128th Annual Meeting of APHA