Cancer Risks on College Campuses

The chance of being diagnosed with cancer is usually associated in correlation with increasing age. However, new studies suggest that cancer is the fourth highest cause of death on college campuses.

“Cancer will be the cause of on person’s death every minute; this equals 1,440 people every 24 hours,” said Shelby Veppert of Commonplace, a McGraw Hill affiliate. “Out of every four people who are diagnosed with cancer, one of them will lose the battle.”

It is important for college students to be aware of cancer, but it is not the most prevalent. The top three causes of death on college campuses are unintentional injuries, homicide, and suicide. All of these are important, but cancer is being overlooked by college students.

The highest cancer-causing risk factors for college students are binge drinking alcohol, tobacco use, and the use of tanning beds.

“In 2009, an estimated 3.5 percent of all cancer deaths in the U.S. were alcohol related. Alcohol can lead to mouth, pancreas, and liver cancer, but because these links have only been recently established, college students may be less aware of them,” said NPR. Because binge drinking after college is not as common, college students have an increased likelihood of getting cancer due to alcohol.

Tobacco use is also relevant to college students. There are multiple types of cancer that are associated with tobacco use including lung, larynx, and nose and sinuses. “Smoking accounts for 87% of lung cancer deaths in men and 70% in women,” said the American Cancer Society. Secondhand smoke is also a factor in causing cancer of the lungs, larynx, pharynx, brain, and more. “Alcohol is such a major trend [in college] that smoking kind of got lost in the shuffle,” said Chris Woolston of Health Day. “But in the last decade, smoking on campus has become a hot topic, and for good reason: The college years are crucial in making or breaking an addiction. They’re old enough to buy cigarettes but young enough to be highly receptive to ads promoting a hip, fun lifestyle.”

The last high risk activity that college students partake in is using tanning beds. “48% of the [college campuses] have indoor tanning facilities on or nearby campus,” said the Skin Care Foundation. “Not only are these facilities abundant, but campuses are making it easy for students to access them: some 14% of colleges allow students to pay for tanning services with campus cash cards.”

“People who use tanning beds are 2.5 times more likely to develop squamous cell carcinoma and 1.5 times more likely to develop basal cell carcinoma,” said the Skin Cancer Foundation. “Squamous cell carcinoma kills an estimated 2,500 Americans a year.”

Education is the first step to lowering these risks for college students. Attending college puts students in an environment where experimentation with alcohol, drugs, and other hazardous activities increases in order to fit in. Being educated on the risks of the activities students partake in is key to lowering the risk.

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