Topics and sources of memorable breast cancer messages and their impact on prevention and detection behaviors

Sandi W. Smith, Samantha Nazione, Carolyn Laplante, Michael R. Kotowski, Charles Atkin, Christine M. Skubisz, Cynthia Stohl

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

58 Scopus citations


Often, people are able to recall a message on a particular topic for a long period of time. These memorable messages have the ability to influence behavior when they are recalled from memory long after initial exposure. Knowing the topics and sources of the messages that are remembered about breast cancer can improve the efficacy of future breast cancer outreach. To this end, 359 women completed an online survey about memorable breast cancer messages. Most women (60%) recalled a memorable message, described it, identified its source, and noted whether it had resulted in prevention or detection behaviors. Four categories of message topics emerged: early detection (37.3%), awareness (30.9%), treatment (25.8%), and prevention (6%). Furthermore, five categories of sources of these memorable messages were found: media (35.5%), friends (22.2%), family (21.6%), medical professionals (15.2%), and others (5.5%). The media were a major source of all four topics of messages, although family members, friends, and the medical community were major sources for particular message topics as well. Memorable messages originating from medical professionals were substantially more likely to motivate detection behaviors than prevention behaviors. This research demonstrates that message topic and source both play roles in determining message recall as well as in determining how memorable messages impacted behavior.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)293-307
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Health Communication
Issue number3
StatePublished - Apr 2009

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by the Breast Cancer and the Environment Research Centers grant U01 ES012800 from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) and the National Cancer Institute (NCI), NIH, DHHS. Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the NIEHS or NCI, NIH.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Communication
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Library and Information Sciences


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