African Americans (AAs) experience profound health disparities in cancer-related risk factors, incidence, and mortality compared to non-Hispanic whites. Cancer risk-related behaviors that are adopted during adolescence and young adulthood, including among college students, are more likely to be sustained later in life. There has been limited attention given to factors that influence the adoption of cancer-related health risk behaviors in AAs attending Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU's), despite evidence that AAs are at greater risk for adopting health risk behaviors such as smoking, alcohol use, risky sexual behaviors, and illicit drug use during college years in comparison to students attending majority institutions. The overall goal of this R03 feasibility study is to determine the incidence of cancer risk-related behaviors among first-year students attending an HBCU and to examine predictors of adoption of those behaviors, including mental health indicators (i.e., depression and stress), religiosity/spirituality, risk perceptions, health literay, peer and familial influences and access to care. First-year students (n=300) will complete study measures that assess these variables during the fall semester (baseline) and at 6 months post-baseline. The prevalence and adoption of health risk behaviors will be evaluated longitudinally, and factors that predict or correlate with those behaviors will be examined. Results will help guide much needed basic behavioral research in this target population, including the development of sustainable interventions to prevent the adoption of health risk behaviors by young AAs. Importantly, this study will establish an ongoing research partnership with Prairie View A&M University that will facilitate future studies on this campus, which ultimately can be disseminated to other HBCU populations, both public and private.

Public Health Relevance

The aims of this R03 feasibility study are to assess the adoption of health risk behaviors related to cancer among a cohort of African American college students attending a rural Historically Black College, Prairie View A&M University, and to examine factors associated with behavior adoption including mental health indicators (i.e., depression, stress), religiosity/spirituality, risk perceptions, health literacy, peer, familial an neighborhood influences, and access to care. Survey data (n=300) will be collected at the beginning of their first semester of freshman year (baseline) and 6 months later. This study will generate baseline indicators for incidence of health risk behaviors among AA college students, and lead to a better understanding of predictors which may increase adoption of health risk behaviors. Results will contribute to the future development of novel health risk behavior interventions for AA college students, an understudied population.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Cancer Institute (NCI)
Small Research Grants (R03)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZCA1-SRLB-Y (J1))
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Perna, Frank
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University of Texas Austin
Schools of Pharmacy
United States
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