Public Figure Announcements About Cancer and Opportunities for Cancer Communication: A Review and Research Agenda

Seth M. Noar, Jessica Fitts Willoughby, Jessica Gall Myrick, Jennifer Brown

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

38 Scopus citations

Abstract

Announcements by public figures and celebrities about cancer diagnosis or death represent significant events in public life. But what are the substantive effects of such events, if any? The purpose of this article is to systematically review studies that examined the impact of public figure cancer announcements on cancer-oriented outcomes. Using comprehensive search procedures, we identified k = 19 studies that examined 11 distinct public figures. The most commonly studied public figures were Jade Goody, Kylie Minogue, Nancy Reagan, and Steve Jobs, with the most common cancers studied being breast (53%), cervical (21%), and pancreatic (21%) cancer. Most studies assessed multiple outcome variables, including behavioral outcomes (k = 15), media coverage (k = 10), information seeking (k = 8), cancer incidence (k = 3), and interpersonal communication (k = 2). Results fairly consistently indicated that cancer announcements from public figures had meaningful effects on many, if not most, of these outcome variables. While such events essentially act as naturally occurring interventions, the effects tend to be relatively short term. Gaps in this literature include few contemporary studies of high-profile public figures in the United States and a general lack of theory-based research. Directions for future research as well as implications for cancer communication and prevention are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)445-461
Number of pages17
JournalHealth Communication
Volume29
Issue number5
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - May 1 2014

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All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Health(social science)
  • Communication

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