Celebrity illnesses raise awareness but can give wrong message
When a celebrity develops a disease, public awareness of the disorder usually increases dramatically, a US seminar heard last week. But the campaigns that spring up in the wake of the publicity sometimes mislead the public about what can or should be done to prevent it.
The first celebrity to speak out was Betty Ford, wife of president Gerald Ford, who did a great deal to raise awareness of breast cancer in 1974, Dr Barron Lerner of Columbia University told the meeting. Detection rates rose immediately in a phenomenon that became known as the “Betty Ford blip.”
But her daughter now advocates that every woman should have mammography from the age of 35 onwards, a strategy not supported by most cancer experts.
The seminar, sponsored by the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in New York, was moderated by Dr George Lundberg, editor in chief of Medscape.com and former editor