Cancer is a widely feared disease and the leading cause of death in Australia, with one in two Australian men and one in three women being diagnosed with cancer by age 85. It is the 5th most reported area of health news on Australian television. Media reportage about cancer can disseminate important primary prevention messages regarding diet, sun exposure, smoking and other lifestyle-associated risks, and secondary prevention issues such as the importance of cancer screening. It can also provide important information to those living with cancer about their disease. Yet media coverage can also create heightened fears of the apparent near inevitability of contracting some form of the disease. It has also relied on gender stereotypes in covering those with the disease; over-represented celebrity diagnoses and younger sufferers; made often uncritical, speculative claims about scientific ‘breakthroughs’ and presented messages on screening that are inconsistent with current recommended practice. The net result is an inaccurate sense of cancer risk among the public.
In this presentation, I will provide an overview of cancer reportage, focussing particularly on celebrity news events, the veneration of “breakthroughs” and the over-representation of female cancer reportage.
4 – 6pm April 18, 2008. Philosophy Room S249, Main Quadrangle. (ground level, behind jacarandas)
Followed by light refreshments.
Simon Chapman, is Professor in Public Health at the University of Sydney. He is a sociologist whose PhD examined the semiotics of cigarette advertising. He is author of 14 books and major government reports, over 360 papers, editorials and commentaries in peer reviewed journals. His books include Over our dead bodies: Gun law reform after Port Arthur (Sydney:Pluto 1998); The Last Right? Australians take sides on the right to die (Sydney:Mandarin 1995); The Fight for Public Health: Principles and Practice of Media Advocacy (BMJ Books 1994); Tobacco in the Third World: a resource Atlas (International Organisation of Consumers' Unions 1990) Great Expectorations: Advertising and the tobacco industry (London: Comedia, 1986);and The Lung Goodbye: tactics for counteracting the tobacco industry in the 1980s (IOCU 1983). His Public Health Advocacy and Tobacco Control: Making Smoking History was published by Blackwell (Oxford) in 2007. He is a regular writer on public health matters in leading Australian newspapers. His main research interests are in tobacco control, media discourses on health and illness, and risk communication. He teaches annual courses in Public Health Advocacy and Tobacco Control in the University of Sydney's MPH program.
In 1997 he won the World Health Organisation's World No Tobacco Day Medal; in 1999, the National Heart Foundation of Australia’s gold medal; in 2006 the Thoracic Society of Australia’s President’s Award; and in 2003 he was voted by his international peers to be awarded the American Cancer Society’s Luther Terry Award for outstanding individual leadership in tobacco control. In 2005, his research on the tobacco industry was selected by the NHMRC as being one of its “top 10” projects. He is editor of the British Medical Journal's specialist journal, Tobacco Control.
He is a life member of the Australian Consumers' Association and was its chairman 1999-2002.
He was a key member of the Coalition for Gun Control which won the 1996 Australian Human Rights & Equal Opportunity Commission’s community Human Rights award.