Awareness of Breast Cancer Risk among Female University Students from 24 Low, Middle Income and Emerging Economy Countries


Background: The aim of this study was to investigate the awareness of breast cancer risk factors amongfemale university students in 24 low, middle income and emerging economy countries. A cross-sectional surveywas conducted with 10,242 undergraduate university students (mean age 20.7, SD=2.9) from 25 universitiesin 24 countries across Asia, Africa and the Americas. Using anonymous questionnaires the awareness of linksbetween breast cancer and heredity, diet, overweight, exercise, alcohol use, smoking and stress was assessed.Results indicated that 35.4% of the women were not aware that any of these risk factors could influence breastcancer, 43.8% were aware of a genetic link, and only 12.5%, 10.9% and 10.6% correctly identified alcohol use,overweight and physical inactivity, respectively, as factors causing breast cancer. Moreover, 13.3% rated dietaryfat and 11.5% fibre as influencing breast cancer; both low-fat and high-fibre diets may be weakly protectiveagainst breast cancer, and smoking (19.4%) and stress (13.5%), the most commonly chosen breast cancer lifestylerisk factors, have less clear impact on breast cancer. There were marked country differences, e.g., in regardsof being aware of genetic causes of breast cancer risk in female students from Ivory Coast, India, Madagascar,Nigeria and Laos below 30% and female students from Pakistan, Singapore, Turkey, Grenada and Philippines60 or more percent. This study provides insight in the breast cancer risk perception of young women, which canbe utilized in breast cancer awareness and prevention programmes.