Cancer-related stigma in the USA and Israeli mass media: an exploratory study of structural stigma

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Purpose: Cancer is considered a stigmatized condition in many cultures. One key cultural site that produces illness-related structural stigma is mass media. This study explored the social construction of cancer-related stigma in mass media during the time of COVID-19. Specifically, we compared how cancer-related stigma is constructed in two contexts: American and Israeli mass media. Methods: Two samples were drawn: all articles that mentioned cancer and published in a 4-month period in USA Today (N = 117) and Israel Today (N = 108). Inductive Thematic Analysis was used to analyze the articles. Results: Three similar themes were identified in the samples: “the trivialization of cancer,” “cancer as metaphor,” and the “the war against cancer.” In both samples, people with cancer were depicted as heroic. Despite the similarities in themes, how each theme was constructed reflected sociocultural differences between the two samples. Conclusions: There appear to be presented universal mechanisms of cancer-related stigma in the media, alongside cultural differences in how they are employed and constructed. Implications for Cancer Survivors: The results stress the importance of debunking cancer-related stigma in the media and elsewhere. Cancer survivors and their families, reporters, researchers, and other stakeholders in the two studied countries should collaborate to devise culturally informed guidelines for reporting and writing about cancer.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)213-222
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Cancer Survivorship
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature.


  • Cancer-related stigma
  • Israel
  • Mass media
  • Structural stigma
  • USA

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology(nursing)
  • Oncology


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