Health: Cancer and Gay Men
There have been several articles in the past month reporting that gay men are 1.9 times more likely than straight men to have had cancer.
The news is based on collected health data from 7,252 adult women and 3,690 adult men who were diagnosed with cancer in 2001, 2003, and 2005 and was obtained from the California Health Interview Survey.
There are causes for the differences in the rates of cancer that need to be examined before any conclusions can be made regarding cancer risk and gay men.
Gay men in the united states are more likely to be HIV-positive, HIV-positive men are at a higher risk for anal, lung, testicular cancers and Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Smoking is a huge factor in cancer risk, and according to several studies the prevalence of cigarette smoking among gay men is significantly higher than among heterosexuals. The risk for cancer may increase from lifestyle choices, such as smoking and can be related to health conditions such as HIV or a history of HPV but cancer is currently unpredictable in men, as some people with several risk factors never develop cancer, while others with no known risk factors do.
A distinction that was not made in most of the articles, is that risk for cancer has nothing to do with sexual orientation. Simply being gay does not increase your risk for cancer.
It is important to talk with your doctor about any risk factors you may have (smoking, family history, HIV status, history of HPV, Sunburns as a child, exposure to radiation) and ask your doctor questions about your risk of cancer.
Headlines making statements like; “Gay men twice as likely to report having cancer” are nothing more than…well, I will leave you to your own conclusions as to what those are.