Article by Jeff Niederdeppe, Dominick L. Frosch, and Robert C. Hornik in the Journal of Health Communication (Issue 13, 2008, 181-199).
The shift toward viewing patients as active consumers of health information raises questions about whether individuals respond to health news by seeking additional information. This study examines the relationship between cancer news coverage and information seeking using a national survey of adults aged 18 years and older. A Lexis-Nexis database search term was used to identify Associated Press (AP) news articles about cancer released between October 21, 2002, and April 13, 2003. We merged these data to the Health Information National Trends Survey (HINTS), a telephone survey of 6,369 adults, by date of interview. Logistic regression models assessed the relationship between cancer news coverage and information seeking. Overall, we observed a marginally significant positive relationship between cancer news coverage and information seeking (p < 0.07). Interaction terms revealed that the relationship was apparent only among respondents who paid close attention to health news (p < 0.01) and among those with a family history of cancer (p < 0.05). Results suggest that a notable segment of the population actively responds to periods of elevated cancer news coverage by seeking additional information, but they raise concerns about the potential for widened gaps in cancer knowledge and behavior between large segments of the population in the future.