More Cancer in Gay Men?

A new report reveals some startling statistics

There are very few studies that link sexual orientation with disease, but a new report in the journal Cancer suggests that gay men are twice as likely to report having cancer than heterosexual men. While the study focuses specifically on men in California, the results show that as many as eight percent of gay men have received a cancer diagnosis of some kind compared with only five percent of straight men.

For women, the results were evenly split for both lesbians and heterosexuals, but poor health decreased the likelihood for survival among many lesbian and bisexual women compared to straights.

While there is no absolute proof, researchers are studying whether the higher numbers among gay men are linked to HIV, especially since anal, lung, testicular cancer and Hodgkin’s lymphoma are more common in men who are HIV positive. It’s believed that the gay men studied also report having cancer at younger ages than heterosexuals – often by age 41 on average.

Reuters reports that Liz Margolies, the executive director of The National LGBT Cancer Network (she was not involved in the study), says “a lack of hard data” on how sexual orientation affects the risks of cancer makes it more difficult to address the disease in the LGBT community. “It’s critical,” she says, “that we know that for funding and for program planning.”

Other factors that may contribute to increased cancer rates: smoking, alcohol abuse and avoiding doctors for regular medical screenings – an issue that may be impacted by a lack of tolerance among many medical providers when it comes to sexual identity.