With cancer as 1 of the leading causes of death, primary prevention measures early in the lifecycle are of relentless importance. Formative understanding of young adult cancer prevention knowledge can aid in development of future programming.
Assess college student knowledge and perceptions regarding cancer prevention.
Study Design, Setting, Participants
A sample of 2,350 college students at a southeastern university were random selected from undergraduate student records for a cross-sectional anonymous online survey.
Data collected included demographics (sex, age, and race), self-perceived health rating (fair/poor, good, very good/excellent), knowledge of age/frequency for cancer screenings (breast, colon, cervical, lung, and prostate), and likert item questions (perceptions of diet and lifestyle-related cancer risk behaviors) on a scale of definitely not true (1) to definitely true (5). Pearson chi-square and Wilcoxon Rank Sum test were used.
Students (n = 144) were White, female, and average of 20 years old. For timing of cancer screening (age/frequency) 78% or more students answered incorrectly on all items except frequency of mammograms (52% correct). Students agreed UV rays, cigarette smoking, family history, and exposure to certain metals/chemicals may cause cancer, but were less certain on dietary impact of cancer risk/prevention (consuming salty, hot, high fat, meats, burned, or spicy foods). Agreement that “smoking may cause cancer” was more agreed with (4.89 ± 0.38 of 5) than “high fat diets may cause cancer” (3.66 ± 1.05) and “diets rich in meat may cause cancer” (3.25 ± 0.95). Males (P = 0.01), and those rating health as very good/excellent (P = 0.03), perceived salty foods as causing cancer.
While college students are aware of typical cancer risk behaviors such as smoking and UV rays, dietary influence was less agreed upon. There is a need for more innovative, long-term interventions on nutrition education and behaviors related to cancer prevention among college students to reduce cancer risk across the lifespan.