Naked Women on TV News: Did Breast Cancer Exam Go Too Far?


In a recent report on ABC 7 News in Washington DC, women were shown bare breasted performing a self breast exam, leading some to ask if the report went too far.

In support of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, WJLA ABC News 7 aired a multi-part series called Touch of Life. In one episode, they aired a bare-chested woman performing a breast self exam (BSE) on herself and demonstrating to others how to perform it as well. The audience was forewarned that the following segment would feature bare breasts and that people should use their discretion. The exam itself was shown in a very clinical light and did not appear sexual in nature. Nonetheless, the journalists who covered the series were asked to come on Good Morning America to discuss their decision to show the breast exam.

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The complaints aren't so much about the nudity though as they are the timing as the segment was aired during the 5:00pm and 11:00pm news and on the first day of sweeps. Sweeps week is a crucial time for television stations as it sets what they can charge their advertisers based on their ratings during that week. Naturally, the higher the ratings the better.

Some argue that the exam could have been demonstrated using a mannequin or chart rather than showing partially nude women. They also point to the fact that the American Cancer Society has recently backed off it's recommendation to perform the exams. Their website states that BSE plays only a small role in the detection of breast cancer. Further, a study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute stated that BSE may do more harm than good causing more unnecessary worry and false positives.

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