4 February 2021

Lili Rademan is a new doctoral candidate at CREST who follows the specialisation in science communication, starting her study in 2021. Her background in physiology and journalism fuelled the idea for her research plan to investigate the issue of pseudoscience and misinformation in the media with specific reference to cancer reporting via online news media in South Africa. Her study will also explore the perceptions of South African cancer researchers and health journalists regarding pseudoscientific cancer claims and their potential role and responsibility to combat it.

“I am hoping that my research will provide sound guidelines for how the media should report on cancer to prevent misleading and harmful quackery claims in news reports,” Ms Rademan said.

Pseudoscientific claims related to cancer cures are centuries old and range from hydrogen peroxide, horse blood, urine, vitamin C, apricot pits, and shark cartilage; most of which have been refuted and even banned in some countries. Unfortunately, it is far easier for pseudoscience to enter information sources than it is to get rid of it. Therefore, communication of science and health research based on scientific values of objectivity, reliability, replicability, evidential support, and consistency can be used as vital tools in combatting pseudoscience. However, because of the complex nature of cancer, news reporting on the topic is particularly susceptible to hype, sensationalism, misrepresentation, inaccuracies, contradiction, and misinformation. The media often try to streamline complex scientific findings to present a magic-bullet cancer-cure narrative which further adds to pseudoscientific news.