Breast Cancer Programs Need More Than A Catchy Headline To Motivate Action

A comparison of the Pinktober and Movember movements reveals that reach and engagement do not always lead people to research screening options

A new study published in Lancet Oncology shows that health awareness campaigns ' internet success may not always translate into increased interest in related health behaviors.

USC's Keck School of Medicine researchers compared Pinktober and Movember, two month-long cancer awareness programs focused on six years of web traffic data of similar online popularity. Google Trends search data patterns were analyzed for specific keywords associated with each campaign and the health behaviors that should result from increased awareness. For example, the keywords of Pinktober included "Pinktober," "Breast Cancer" and "Mammography," while the keywords of Movember included terms such as "Movember," "Mustaches," and "PSA Test OR PSA." Researchers found that while peaks in breast cancer related web searches matched peaks for the Pinktober campaign throughout October, the volume of prostate cancer web searches did not appear.

“Between the pink ribbons and mustaches, both these campaigns have very visual elements that can reinforce their online visibility,” says Giovanni Cacciamani, MD, assistant professor of research urology at the Keck School and principal investigator of the study. “However, a successful health awareness campaign will need to go beyond reach and virality to ensure that the public understands the call to action.”

Cacciamani stressed that the data do not necessarily reflect poorly on the Movember movement, which encourages men to grow their moustaches in November to raise awareness of male health issues such as prostate and testicular cancers, mental health and prevention of suicide. The campaign has raised more than $700 million in funding since its inception in 2003.

The target audience can be attributed to the varying success of the two promotions. The Pinktober campaign to raise awareness about breast cancer and the need for routine screening is targeted at women who may be more likely to turn to the internet for information about health. On the other hand, among younger to middle-aged men, Movember is most common and lends itself to social media mustache selfies, while prostate cancer mainly affects a generation of men who may not be as involved on these sites.

Another possible explanation for the variations in search traffic could be that the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) cautioned against regular prostate-specific prostate cancer screening in 2012. Although the USPSTF has since revised its recommendations to allow men between the ages of 55 and 69 to discuss screening frequency with their doctor, since 2012 Movember has seen a decline in registered participants and donations.


Cacciamani and his colleagues are continuing to study Google's traffic for insights into how people use the internet to get information about health care.

“The pernicious trap of fake news is always around the corner,” says Inderbir S. Gill, MD, chair and Distinguished Professor of Urology in the Catherine & Joseph Aresty Department of Urology and executive director of USC Urology. Gill is also the senior author of the study. “Understanding patients’ internet search patterns can help the medical community combat misinformation and encourage healthier habits,” concluded Gill, who is also the Shirley and Donald Skinner Chair in Urologic Cancer Surgery at the Keck School.  

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About the Keck School of Medicine of USC

Founded in 1885, the Keck School of Medicine of USC is among the nation’s leaders in innovative patient care, scientific discovery, education and community service. The school has more than 1,850 full-time faculty members and voluntary faculty numbering more than 2,400 physicians. These faculty direct the education of approximately 800 medical students and 1,000 students pursuing graduate and postgraduate degrees. The school trains more than 900 resident physicians in more than 50 specialty or subspecialty programs and is the largest educator of physicians practicing in Southern California. Keck School faculty also lead research and education within 26 research-oriented basic science and clinical departments, and 17 research institutes across USC’s Health Sciences Campus.

The Keck School was ranked No. 30 in research in the 2020 U.S. News & World Report “Best Graduate Schools” rankings.

For more information, visit

Contact: Mary Dacuma at [email protected] or (323) 865-7839

Breast Cancer Programs Need More Than A Catchy Headline To Motivate Action

Breast Cancer Programs Need More Than A Catchy Headline To Motivate Action

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