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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Kentucky: Celebrity Cancer Announcements on Social Media Offer Opportunities for Prevention and Screening Messaging

To better understand how celebrity discussion of cancer impacts the public discourse about cancer on social media, investigators at the University of Kentucky and University of California Irvine analyzed how a celebrity cancer announcement influenced Twitter conversations in terms of the volume of social media messages and the type of content. The resulting publication appears in Cancer Control. Dr. Sarah Vos, University of Kentucky College of Public Health, is the first and corresponding author. Co-authors are Dr. Jeanette Sutton, UK College of Communication and Information, Dr. C. Ben Gibson and Dr. Carter T. Butts, both of UC Irvine School of Social Sciences.

Over a 9-day period, during which actor Ben Stiller announced that he had been treated for prostate cancer, investigators collected 1.2 million Twitter messages about cancer. The researchers found that messages related to prostate cancer increased significantly more than expected for two days following Stiller’s announcement. However, the number of cancer messages that described other cancer locations either did not increase or did not increase by the same magnitude. In terms of message content, results showed larger-than-expected increases in diagnosis messages. These results suggest opportunities to shape social media conversations following celebrity cancer announcements, and to increase prevention and early detection messages.