Many Young Adults Have One or More Modifiable Cancer Risk Factors Interview with:

Mary C. White, ScD MPH Epidemiology and Applied Research Branch Division of Cancer Prevention and Control CDC Atlanta GA 30341

Dr. White

Mary C. White, ScD MPH
Epidemiology and Applied Research Branch
Division of Cancer Prevention and Control
Atlanta GA 30341 What is the background for this study?

Response: Most cancers are caused not by just one thing, but instead by a combination of different factors over many years. Early adulthood is a time of many life changes and stresses, and exposure to harmful products and unhealthy habits during early adulthood can set the stage for developing cancer at older ages. We analyzed responses from a national sample of young adults to questions about diet, physical activity, tobacco products, alcohol, indoor tanning, sleep, the HPV vaccine, and obesity. These factors have been linked to higher risks of different types of cancer. What are the main findings?

Response: Many cancer risk factors were prevalent among young adults, and the prevalence often varied by sex, age, and race or ethnicity. Overall, about one in four young men and women in the study were obese, many reported little or no physical activity, and one in three reported insufficient sleep. Cigarette smoking and binge drinking also were common. Dietary guidelines to prevent cancer include  avoiding or limiting the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages and red and processed meats, but more than half of the population studied consumed sugar-sweetened beverages daily and processed meat at least once a week. Many young adults have never received the HPV vaccine and could potentially benefit from catch-up vaccination. What should readers take away from your report?

Response: Young adulthood provides an opportunity to set a course for a long, healthy life, but a large number of young adults currently are following a different course. These findings can inform and support efforts by healthcare providers and public health professionals to help this generation of young adults avoid the preventable chronic illnesses that can derail their life dreams. The findings for specific subgroups can be used to target evidence-based environmental and policy interventions to reduce the prevalence of cancer risk factors among young adults and prevent the development of future cancers. What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Response: Research is needed that simultaneously addresses multiple factors within subgroups of young adults and considers the unique stresses and social and environmental influences at this stage of life. Is there anything else you would like to add?

Response: This paper was one of several related papers in a special American Journal of Preventive Medicine supplement that focused on opportunities for cancer prevention during early adulthood, supported by CDC and available without cost at:

No disclosures Thank you for your contribution to the community.


Prevalence of Modifiable Cancer Risk Factors Among U.S. Adults Aged 18–44 Years

Mary C. White, Meredith L. Shoemaker, Sohyun Park, Linda J. Neff, Susan A. Carlson, David R. Brown, Dafna Kanny S14–S20
Published in issue: September 2017
American Journal Preventive Medicine

Note: Content is Not intended as medical advice. Please consult your health care provider regarding your specific medical condition and questions.

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