LGBT Americans at Higher Risk for Certain Cancers

This is something I think all of us should be more aware of - looks like quite an event as well!  "One in three people will be diagnosed with cancer within their lifetime, and the LGBT community is affected disproportionately by lung cancer, rectal cancer, and cervical cancer..."

New Research shows that LGBT Americans surprisingly unaware of the risks
American Cancer Society Aims to Raise Awareness of Cancer in the LGBT Community

The LGBT community is affected disproportionately by several kinds of cancer, and the vast majority of LGBT Americans are not even aware of it, according to new findings.  Gay and bisexual men are 17 times more likely to develop anal cancer, thought to be caused by the HPV virus, than heterosexual men .  Cigarette smoking among gay men, lesbians and transgender people is nearly double that of the general population, and smoking is responsible for 80% of all lung cancers, leaving the LGBT community with a significantly higher than average incidence of lung cancer.  Meanwhile, there is a body of evidence that lesbians have a dense cluster of risk factors significantly raising their risk of developing breast cancer.  Unfortunately, cancer research in the LGBT population is rarely conducted or published.

Perhaps due to the lack of focus on cancer in the LGBT community, awareness of the risks of cancer within this population is surprisingly low.  New national research was conducted in March, 2010 by Community Marketing, Inc., an LGBT-focused market research firm, to gauge awareness of cancer in the LGBT community.  The survey reached over 4,300 LGBT community members nationally, and showed that only 10.5% of the LGBT population was aware that certain types of cancer were more prevalent in the LGBT population, despite the fact that 76.4% of respondents personally knew someone in the LGBT population with cancer.  Only 30.9% of respondents thought that they might someday develop cancer themselves, even though it is the second leading cause of death in this country  and the lifetime probability of developing cancer (in the mainstream community) is 1 in 2 for men, and 1 in 3 for women .

The survey also indicated there is a need for more cancer resources in the LGBT community.  The majority of respondents indicated a need for cancer screenings (75.2%), education (71.6%), help with access to medical care or treatment (63.8%).

The American Cancer Society (ACS) has recognized the high incidence of cancer in the LGBT community, and the need for greater services.  In 2010, ACS has begun conducting “Cancer Chats” at the LGBT Community Center in New York City and in other locations, focused on raising awareness of cancer in the LGBT community and helping with concrete information such as nutrition therapy.

ACS has also been planning, for the first time ever, to roll out its signature Relay For Life event specifically for the LGBT community.  “Relay for Life is an all-day ‘festival of the spirit’ made up of community teams, where we come together to pay tribute to those we have lost to cancer, and celebrate those who have survived, while raising money for cancer education, research and services.   We are piloting this event in September, 2010 in New York City, and, if successful, would like to roll these LGBT cancer events out nationally,” said Myrna Duarte, organizer of the ACS’ first-ever LGBT Relay for Life event.  The money raised at the Relay For Life event will save lives by funding cutting-edge cancer research, advocacy efforts, patient services, early detection and prevention education.  For more information on the LGBT Relay For Life event, go to

"Within the LGBT community, much of the health focus understandably has been on HIV/AIDS, said Matthew Lemer, M.D., a urologist at Beth Israel Medical Center.  "I care for many LGBT patients in my practice and I see a high incidence of cancer among them.  In the early 1980s some people erroneously called HIV/AIDS the "gay cancer." But LGBT patients do have legitimate cancers, which need to be recognized and treated with sensitivity to the salient needs of the community."

“Whether you are a caregiver, a survivor, or a loved one of someone who has battled cancer, this disease can be devastating.  I have felt the effects of cancer firsthand,” said Gina Bonica, 34, a New York City-based attorney and cancer survivor.  “As a member of the LGBT community, please join me in helping to raise awareness of the disproportionate effects of certain types of cancer in the LGBT community,” she continued.


Unknown said…
So glad to have you comment on lgbt's and cancer. I've been talking about this issue for years, and was involved in the first national attempt to do something about the problem - Out and Healthy - a conference held by NGLCC in Wash DC a couple of years ago that didn't quite catch on (yet). As a social worker I am well familiar with the term 'health disparities'. That's what this is all about. Like other minorities, there are health disparities in our system and it's time to change that so, thanks again, Matt for starting the conversation.

Barb Elgin

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