ObjectiveTo examine public and media response to the draft (October 2011) and finalised (May 2012) recommendations of the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) against prostate-specific antigen (PSA) testing via Twitter, a popular social network with over 200 million active users.
Materials and methodsWe used a mixed-methods design to analyse posts on Twitter, known as 'tweets'. Using the search term 'prostate cancer', we archived tweets in the 24-h periods following the release of both the draft and the finalised USPSTF recommendations. We recorded tweet rate per h and developed a coding system to assess the type of user and sentiment expressed in tweets and linked articles.
ResultsAfter the draft and finalised USPSTF recommendations were released, 2042 and 5357 tweets focused on the USPSTF report, respectively. The tweet rate nearly doubled within 2 h of both announcements. Fewer than 10% of tweets expressed an opinion about screening, and the majority of these were pro-screening during both periods. By contrast, anti-screening articles were tweeted more frequently in both the draft and finalised study periods. Between the draft and the finalised recommendations, the proportion of anti-screening tweets and anti-screening article links increased (P = 0.03 and P < 0.01, respectively).
ConclusionsThere was increased Twitter activity surrounding the USPSTF draft and finalised recommendations. The percentage of anti-screening tweets and articles appeared to increase, perhaps due to the interval public comment period. Despite this, most tweets did not express an opinion, suggesting a missed opportunity in this important arena for advocacy.