Importance of communicating cancer prevention to the young highlighted

A special supplement to the American Journal of Preventive Medicine has highlighted the importance and challenges of communicating cancer prevention messages to young adults.

The supplement covers a variety of cancer types and includes accompanying health, behaviors and conditions that increase cancer risk. The young adult focused age group, ranging between 18–44 years of age, present unique risks owing to prevalent social and behavioral environments. Wide ranging consideration has been given to interventions and expanded prevention efforts targeted towards young adults in the US.

Highlights of an interdisciplinary meeting of experts, convened by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Association of Chronic Disease Directors, illustrate a focus on preventative measures in early adulthood, in a drive to avoid the potential for long-term consequences as the young adult demographic ages. Further articles in the supplement delve into specific focus areas outlined in the highlights. Collectively they underscore key behaviors in early adulthood and patterns in chronic health conditions, proposing tailored interventions geared towards mitigating risks.

Identified areas of interest included:

  • The carcinogenic influence of alcohol: The costs of treating alcohol related breast cancer incidence in young women, estimated at $150 million annually. Alcohol screening and interventions as part of wider public health activities with an aim to reduce excessive drinking in social spaces such as bars and clubs, and communicating the risks posed to long term health.
  • The utilization of potentially harmful products, and the targeted marketing of those products, towards young people. Counter-measures to those marketing campaigns, such as the utilization of social media platforms as a way to present information to a large audience, are examined.
  • Investigations on the reasons for the lower prevalence of breastfeeding amongst black women, despite an apparent link to reduced breast cancer rates. Projects such as peer counselling, hospital policy changes, breastfeeding specific clinic appointments, group prenatal education and enhanced breastfeeding programs have demonstrated to be effective in black communities.
  • Mental health, traditionally not included, was considered among the factors that can directly or indirectly, affect the potential for vulnerability to cancer.

Articles highlighted disparities in the cancer risk factors of subpopulations by characteristics such as ethnicity, social status and neighborhood location. Logic models can be utilized to investigate the distinctions between characteristic groups via research programs, while an award-winning diabetes prevention program could serve as the model for cancer prevention, particularly in higher risk minority communities, with an aim to reduce the incidence of cancer.

Guest Editor Claire Brindis (University of California, CA, USA) noted: “The growing impact of cancer, both in the US and globally, and the prevalence of modifiable cancer risk factors represent a window of opportunity to reduce cancer incidence at the population level.”


Brindis CD, Holman DM, White MC Opportunities for cancer prevention during early adulthood (53, 3)  American Journal of Preventive Medicine Suppl 1 (2017); Eureka alert press release