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The presidential effect: the public health response to media coverage about Ronald Reagan's colon cancer episode


, : The presidential effect: the public health response to media coverage about Ronald Reagan's colon cancer episode. Public Opinion Quarterly 54(3): 317-329

Little previous research has been done on the public health impact of mass media coverage of cancer episodes of public figures. This paper uses a variety of data sources to examine the impact of President Reagan's colon cancer episode of July, 1985. Records of phone calls to the Cancer Information Service of the National Cancer Institute are examined as a measure of public interest and concern about colorectal cancer; data on the use of two colorectal early detection tests--proctoscopy and fecal occult blood tests--are looked at as a measure of behavioral change; and data on the incidence of early and advanced colorectal cancer are used to estimate the potential public health impact of this behavioral change. We find that there was a sharp, albeit somewhat transitory, increase in public interest in colorectal cancer in the wake of President Reagan's colon cancer episode, with a corresponding increase in the use of early detection tests. The incidence data on early and advanced disease is indicative of a beneficial public health impact, but this can be confirmed only after additional data on mortality becomes available.

US$29.90

PMID: 10109111


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