Beliefs Underlying Messages of Anti-Cancer-Screening Websites in Japan: A Qualitative Analysis

Document Type : Research Articles


Department of Health Communication, School of Public Health, The University of Tokyo, 7-3-1 Hongo, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo 113- 8655, Japan.


Background: Cancer screening rates are lower in Japan than in Western countries. Meanwhile, anti-cancer-screening activists take to the internet to spread their messages that cancer screening has little or no efficacy, poses substantial health risks such as side effects from radiation exposure, and that people should forgo cancer screening. We applied a qualitative approach to explore the beliefs underlying the messages of anti-cancer-screening websites, by focusing on perceived value the beliefs provided to those who held them. Methods: We conducted online searches using Google Japan and Yahoo! Japan, targeting websites we classified as "pro," "anti," or "neutral" depending on their claims. We applied a dual analytic approach- inductive thematic analysis and deductive interpretative analysis- to the textual data of the anti websites. Results: Of the 88 websites analyzed, five themes that correspond to beliefs were identified: destruction of common knowledge, denial of standard cancer control, education about right cancer control, education about hidden truths, and sense of superiority that only I know the truth. Authors of anti websites ascribed two values ("safety of people" and "self-esteem") to their beliefs. Conclusion: The beliefs of authors of anti-cancer-screening websites were supposed to be strong. It would be better to target in cancer screening promotion not outright screening refusers but screening hesitant people who are more amenable to changing their attitudes toward screening. The possible means to persuade them were discussed.


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