Online Program

Attitudes toward risk factors associated with cancer among college students

Monday, November 4, 2013

Nicole Cranley, M.S., Department of Behavioral Science and Community Health, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL
Julie Merten, MSH, MCHES, Department of Behavioral Science and Community Health, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL
Adrienne Williams, BSH, Mayo Clinic, Jacksonville, FL
Alexander Parker, PhD, Mayo Clinic, Jacksonville, FL
Incidence and mortality rates for cancer have risen steadily over the past three decades and costs the United States healthcare system over $264 billion annually. Cancer risk can be reduced by restricting alcohol consumption, avoiding tobacco, eating a balanced diet, limiting sun exposure, exercising, and seeking routine cancer screenings. The purpose of this study was to examine the knowledge and attitudes of cancer risk factors among young adults with the intention to improve cancer prevention efforts. Researchers surveyed undergraduate and graduate students (n = 719) at a mid sized public university about their attitudes and knowledge regarding cancer risk factors including smoking, alcohol consumption, diet, obesity, hypertension, and human papillomavirus (HPV). Results revealed that 99% of participants believed that exposure to UV rays and smoking increased risk of developing skin and lung cancer, respectively. Over half (54%) of participants reported not knowing if high blood pressure was a risk factor for cancer development. Respondents had little knowledge of what types of cancer are associated with HPV infection, with the exception of cervical cancer. Only 26% reported an association between HPV and head and neck cancer. Additionally, 65% were unaware that alcohol consumption increases risk of breast cancer. The findings suggest young adults are uninformed about the relationship between many health behaviors and cancer risk. Public health education efforts should focus on raising awareness in a younger population targeting identified knowledge gaps to lower cancer incidence and reduce the personal tragedy and societal burden of cancer.

Learning Areas:

Planning of health education strategies, interventions, and programs
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
Identify attitudes towards potential risk factors for cancer development among college students.

Keyword(s): Cancer Prevention, Risk Factors

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am a doctoral student in public health concentrating in social and behavioral sciences. I am doing my dissertation research on perceptions towards environmental risk factors for cancer development. This part of the pilot data being considered for my dissertation. One of my coauthors and I are planning on reevaluating our survey and redistributing it to another cohort of college students.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.