Study: Students who engage in unhealthy behaviors could have increased risk of cancer

Rebecca Savransky, Campus Editor

The majority of college students are practicing unhealthy behaviors, including eating poorly and failing to exercise, which could put them at greater risk to develop cancer later in their lives, according to a new study from Northwestern Medicine and Northeastern Illinois University.

The study, published Monday in the journal Preventive Medicine, found that the individuals most in danger of developing the disease are racial minority students, particularly African Americans and Native Americans.

“Changing unhealthy behaviors in college students now could be a way to reduce the risk of cancer as well as other diseases later in life,” said Feinberg School of Medicine Prof. Brian Hitsman, principal investigator of the study.

This study is unique in its focus on cancer risk behaviors in college students and its analysis of how these factors change when measuring different races and ethnicities.

The study was based off of a National College Health Assessment survey which was given to more than 30,000 college students.

According to the self-reported data, 95 percent of college students do not eat the amount of fruit and vegetables recommended, and more than 60 percent of college students do not engage in the recommended amount of exercise.

Most students also reported combined tobacco use and alcohol binge drinking. However, when analyzing data from black students, a correlation was found between tobacco use and obesity.

“There are major cancer disparities both in terms of risk, morbidity and mortality with racial and ethnic minorities in the United States,” Hitsman said. “In this study, we see some of these behavioral risk factors already starting in young adulthood. Future research should monitor the persistence of cancer risk behavior clustering by race and ethnicity.”

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Twitter: @beccasavransky