Pride Series: Sexual Gender Minority Health Risks

Fri, 06/07/2019 - 9:30 AM | by Carly Stunda

By: Madeline Elkin-Aquino, Health Educator and Outreach Specialist at Little Red Door Cancer Agency, AmeriCorp Public Ally

In celebration of Pride, this month we will be doing a blog series around sexual gender minority (SGM) health topics. SGM is an umbrella term that encompasses the LGBTQ+ community as well as those whose sexual orientation, gender identity and expressions or reproductive development varies from traditional norms. Unfortunately, the LGBT community is at a higher risk for certain cancers and are also less likely to access and utilize preventive services. So, in this month’s blogs we have provided some helpful educational links for specific cancers relevant to the SGM community, while also helping you navigate the health care system in an LGBTQ+ friendly way!

Cancer Risks

  1. Lung Cancer – due to factors such as social discrimination, bar culture and targeting by the tobacco industry, there seems to be a higher rate of smoking for members in the LGBT community. According to Cancer Today, nearly 1 in 4 LGB adults smoke, compared to 1 in 6 heterosexual adults—while smoking prevalence among the LGBT youth is estimated to range from 38-59% compared to 27% among all youth. Given that tobacco is the leading cause for lung cancer we see a greater risk for lung cancer among this population.
  2. Anal Cancer – specifically for men who have sex with men (MSM) there is an increased risk for anal cancer. Anal cancer is caused by the STI HPV; for MSMs HPV can be contracted through both protected and unprotected sex, as well as skin-to-skin contact. In addition to this, health care professionals have yet to develop a standardized screening protocol for anal cancer. The best form of prevention for anal cancer is the HPV vaccine called Gardasil which is now available for all genders through your doctors office or your local pharmacist.
  3. Breast Cancer – SGM individuals also have an increased risk of breast cancer due to an overlap in risk factors such as never having children, having children later in life, obesity and alcohol use. In addition to that research shows that lesbian and bisexual women are less likely to receive regular mammogram screenings.
  4. Skin Cancer – Sexual minority men have a higher risk of developing skin cancer. Research has found as much as 50% higher odds when compared to their non-SGM male counterparts. This seems to be in part due to elevated skin cancer risk behaviors include higher levels of indoor and outdoor tanning as adolescents, coupled with low use of sunscreen.

Health Links

American Cancer Society cancer facts for gay and bisexual men.

American Cancer Society cancer facts for lesbian and bisexual women.

Little Red Door will be celebrating with you this year at Pride! Come check out our table, where we will be passing out Q cards and answering any cancer related questions you have for us. Also, don’t forget to check out the blogs 2 and 3 of this Pride Series for more information around the SGM Health Topic.