Cancer Risk–Promoting Information: The Communication Environment of Young Adults

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Young adulthood represents a time of myriad transitions, which leave young adults (YAs) more susceptible to the influences of cancer risk–promoting information. The tobacco, alcohol, indoor tanning, and food and beverage industries engage in aggressive marketing strategies through both traditional and social media to target this age group to consume their products, which have known links to cancer. Despite this barrage of messaging, detailed data are lacking on the communication behaviors of subgroups of this diverse age group, particularly those from low SES. This paper explores the available data on media usage among YAs and describes the cancer risk–promoting information environment, with a focus on communication inequalities and their implications for cancer research and control. Nationally representative data on media consumption patterns indicate that the majority of YAs access a diverse range of traditional and social media platforms, but these data do not fully describe differences at the intersection of age and important factors such as SES, gender, race/ethnicity, or urban/rural residence. Meanwhile, risk-promoting information is heavily marketed to YAs across media, with an increasing focus on using social media sites to normalize products and evade marketing restrictions. Gaps in the available data on YAs’ media consumption behaviors, coupled with aggressive risk-promoting marketing strategies toward YAs, may impede cancer control efforts. Relationships between exposure to various cancer risk–promoting information, concurrent risk behaviors, SES disparities, and communication inequalities should be investigated to develop innovative and effective control programs and policies to promote cancer control in this important group.




McCloud, R. F., Kohler, R. E., & Viswanath, K. (2017). Cancer Risk–Promoting Information: The Communication Environment of Young Adults. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 53(3), S63–S72.

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