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Gay Men are at Higher Cancer Risk

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In a recent study from California, more gay men are reported as cancer survivors than straight men. Still, it is not that conclusive whether or not gay men are more prone in contracting the disease. It could also be whether or not gay men are likely to survive cancer if they do get it.

More Research

The recent study encouraged researchers to produce more evidences that will strengthen the suggestion that targeted interventions must be developed to prevent cancer.

The National LGBT Cancer Network’s executive director Liz Margolies said that one of the biggest problems we currently have is the lack of hard data that will confirm whether or not sexual orientation affects a person’s cancer risk. She is not involved in the study but she is definitely concerned. She believes it is critical that we know before funding and program planning is activated.

For the researchers, they have looked through three years worth of responses to the California Health Interview survey to address the lack of data. This includes 120,000 adults living in California. Among the questions are those related to their sexuality and if they ever had been diagnosed with cancer.

gay man cancer 51,000 of the respondents are men and out of those numbers, 3,700 said they had been diagnosed with cancer. There is a three percent difference, however, between the percentage rates among straight men and gay men.

71,000 of the respondents are women and out of those numbers, 7,300 said they had been diagnosed with cancer. But overall, there is no difference in percentage rates between straight women, lesbian women, and bisexual women. In case of survival, among women cancer survivors, lesbians and bisexuals were likely to report poor to fair health than straight women.

Those findings from the survey were published in the journal Cancer.

The Need for Even More Research

Ulrike Boehmer of Boston University School of Public Health spearheaded a study that sought to prove that higher rates of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection incidence among gay men may have increased their risk for cancer. The study, however, was not able to answer the lingering questions regarding the association of cancer and sexuality.

Margolies thinks that there is more to gay men’s cancer risk other than just HIV. "Gay men as a group have a bunch of risk factors for cancer," she said.

Some of the risk factors are smoking and alcohol drinking. In several studies, it has been found out that gay men and lesbian women are likely to habitually smoke and abuse alcohol than their straight counterparts. They are also not too comfortable seeking professional healthcare for routine screenings because they have that fear of not being accepted for their identity. The members of the third sex cannot be expected to consult a doctor unless it is during an emergency if they are not assured the environment will be warm and welcoming.

An advocate of LGBT’s welfare, especially in association with cancer, Margolies believes that it is not proper to generalize this early. She thinks there are still a lot of sides to look through, including the same increased risk among lesbian women compared to straight women. However, she and Boehmer agree on one thing. That is, the LGBT community deserves and needs more healthcare attention, especially when it comes to cancer risks. They also believe that the healthcare community must address the extra challenges that gay men and lesbian women cancer survivors face.
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