Can facebook give you cancer?
This provocative, headline grabbing piece of “journalism” appeared in today’s Daily Mail online. If you take the time to read through the piece, you will quickly see it for what it is… a piece of outlandish and misleading reporting.
However, it did set me thinking on the whole subject of cancer and media reporting. Hardly a week passes by but we are bombarded by scare or saviour stories in the media, along the lines of today’s Daily Mail example, or the other end of the spectrum, eat this latest superfood advice. Remember last year’s “eating just one sausage a day increases your risk of cancer by 20%”? Whilst there certainly appears to be a link between excessive red meat consumption and bowel cancer, the problem with this kind of sensationalist reporting is that people’s risk perception becomes skewed and they will start to tune out the real message behind these unbalanced reports. There is a term in the charity field called “donor fatigue” – we start to tune out those images of starving babies after a while – and I wonder if we are starting to adopt a similar “health warning fatigue”. The danger is that the real health messages are being lost in a sea of headline grabbing scare stories.The media love nothing better than a sensational headline when reporting research to the public, but it is time they also woke up to their obligation to educate and inform in a responsible manner.