Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Cancer news articles may contribute to confusion about cancer

Date:
November 10, 2010
Source:
North Carolina State University
Summary:
New research shows that most online news stories about cancer contain language that likely contributes to public uncertainty about the disease -- a significant finding, given that at least one-third of Americans seek health information online.

New research from North Carolina State University shows that most online news stories about cancer contain language that likely contributes to public uncertainty about the disease -- a significant finding, given that at least one-third of Americans seek health information online.

Related Articles


"Previous studies show that more than 100 million Americans seek health information online, and that their findings affect their health decisions," says Dr. Kami Kosenko, an assistant professor of communication at NC State and co-author of a paper describing the study. "But, while people facing uncertainty about cancer issues are likely to seek out additional information, we've found that there are features of the information they're seeking that may actually exacerbate the uncertainty."

"We found that nearly two-thirds of cancer news articles contain at least some uncertain terms -- words or phrases that reflect probability or ambiguity rather than certainty," says Dr. Ryan Hurley, a senior lecturer of communication at NC State and lead author of the study. The researchers evaluated more than 800 news articles on cancer issues, ranging from prevention to diagnosis to treatment. The articles were found on Google News, Yahoo! News, CNN website and MSNBC website.

Specifically, the researchers found that uncertain terms were used most often in reference to cancer treatment. "If you are trying to find clarity about cancer treatment options, reading news articles online may actually confuse the issue further," Hurley says. For example, one news article said, "There is no evidence that adding chemotherapy right away helps, and it may even worsen patients' chances." Hurley explains that this sentence creates uncertainty for readers because it indicates a lack of information (no evidence) as well as ambiguity about treatment efficacy (may even worsen).

To measure the use of uncertain terms, the researchers developed a scheme that captures five specific "message features" that are theoretically related to uncertainty. These features are conflicting information, complex information, ambiguous information, having too much information and having too little information. The researchers assessed the cancer news articles to determine the extent to which each included one or more of the uncertainty message features.

"To this point, no one has developed a means of systematically identifying and quantifying uncertain terms," Hurley says. "We believe the scheme we've created could be applied to identify uncertain terms in any text, from news articles to advertisements."

The researchers plan to use the scheme in forthcoming research efforts, including the design of experiments that can help us understand how uncertainty in messages influences people and affects behavior.

The paper, "Uncertain Terms: Message Features of Online Cancer News," will be presented Nov. 15 at the National Communication Association Annual Convention in San Francisco, Calif. The paper was co-authored by the late Dr. Dale Brashers of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by North Carolina State University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

North Carolina State University. "Cancer news articles may contribute to confusion about cancer." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 10 November 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/11/101110101323.htm>.
North Carolina State University. (2010, November 10). Cancer news articles may contribute to confusion about cancer. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/11/101110101323.htm
North Carolina State University. "Cancer news articles may contribute to confusion about cancer." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/11/101110101323.htm (accessed December 22, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Health & Medicine News

Monday, December 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Touch-Free Smart Phone Empowers Mobility-Impaired

Touch-Free Smart Phone Empowers Mobility-Impaired

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Dec. 21, 2014) A touch-free phone developed in Israel enables the mobility-impaired to operate smart phones with just a movement of the head. Suzannah Butcher reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Earthworms Provide Cancer-Fighting Bacteria

Earthworms Provide Cancer-Fighting Bacteria

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Dec. 21, 2014) Polish scientists isolate bacteria from earthworm intestines which they say may be used in antibiotics and cancer treatments. Suzannah Butcher reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Existing Chemical Compounds Could Revive Failing Antibiotics, Says Danish Scientist

Existing Chemical Compounds Could Revive Failing Antibiotics, Says Danish Scientist

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Dec. 21, 2014) A team of scientists led by Danish chemist Jorn Christensen says they have isolated two chemical compounds within an existing antipsychotic medication that could be used to help a range of failing antibiotics work against killer bacterial infections, such as Tuberculosis. Jim Drury went to meet him. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Hugging It Out Could Help You Ward Off A Cold

Hugging It Out Could Help You Ward Off A Cold

Newsy (Dec. 21, 2014) Carnegie Mellon researchers found frequent hugs can help people avoid stress-related illnesses. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins