According to the survey and study conducted by Northwestern health researchers, some 95 percent of college students don't include enough fruits or vegetables as part of their daily diet. And more than 60 percent don't get enough exercise. Not to mention high rates of binge drinking, obesity and tobacco use.
"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," explained Brian Hitsman, an assistant professor of preventive medicine and one of the lead researchers on the study.
The study -- which was published this week in the journal Preventive Medicine -- was conducted by compiling data from the 2010 National College Health Assessment, a self-reported survey of more than 30,000 U.S. college students; the details were published this week in the journal Preventive Medicine.
The study also analyzed behavioral tendencies among different racial and ethnic groups. While white students were more likely to combine both binge drinking and tobacco use, black students were more likely to both smoke and be obese.
And while white students were the most likely to binge drink (37.5 percent), black students were the least likely to fall short of the recommended fruit and vegetable intake (98.1 percent).
Among the more positive findings, Asian students were the most likely to get plenty of exercise (74.6 percent).
“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.”