Cancer Facts for Bisexual and Gay Men 

Summary: The cancer risks for those men who are bisexual, or gay are heightened due to a number of reasons. This article covers the most commonly diagnosed cancers in this group of men, and what can be done to lower the overall risk for developing these cancers. Certain lifestyle changes and regular screening can help to lessen your overall risk for developing cancer, or having common polyps grow in to uncontrolled cancer masses.

When working towards lowering your risk of cancer, protecting yourself and the people you care about is a must. The most common types of cancer to affect men in the United States are lung, prostate, colon and skin cancer; with growing rates of testicular cancer throughout 2018. When cancers are detected and treated early, this raises your chances of being completely cancer free at some point in your life.

Many medical studies have shown that gay and bisexual men tend to get less routine health care than other men, most likely because they are faced with barriers of getting the healthcare and tests that they need, including:

Negative experiences with health care providers. This fear of having another possibly negative experience with a medical care professional can lead some men to delay or completely avoid medical care in general, especially the more routine care that can be the first line of prevention when dealing with cancer and other illnesses. Missing or skipping this type of care and screenings can lead to a later-stage diagnosis with your cancer, and a harder path to whole-body healing.

Low rates of health insurance. Many health insurance policies still do not cover unmarried partners. While some types of state offered insurance do cover partners, the coverage does not cover certain screenings. This makes it harder for bisexual and gay individuals to get quality health care at all.

Fear of discrimination. Many men do not initially disclose their sexual orientation because they worry that conflicting opinions and discrimination may prevent them from getting the care that they deserve. This can cause a tumultuous relationship with medical staff, which means the patient will not be getting the treatment that they need.

Now there are many bisexual, lesbian, gay, and LGBTQ friendly providers who encourage their patients to be themselves and stay up-to-date with their medical care. Your local LGBTQ support groups may be able to help you find a new provider who is more open to your choices and gives you the respect you deserve.

What are the most common types of cancer that affect bisexual and gay men?

The American Cancer Society has listed the top cancers affecting bisexual and gay men. All men can take certain steps to help lower their risk for developing these cancers.

Prostate Cancer. Most prostate cancer affects men over fifty, and African American men have a greater likelihood to develop prostate cancer than men of other races. Having one or more first-degree relatives with prostate cancer also increases your overall risk.

How can I detect prostate cancer early?

This type of cancer can be found by having a prostate-specific antigen blood test, or PSA test, with or without the rectal exam. Prostate cancer is a slow growing cancer and can sometimes be missed upon first checks. Tests today can better detect the cancers in early stages but cannot always initially tell how dangerous or what stage the cancer is presenting. Ignoring the warning signs for prostate cancer and delaying treatment could result with issues with your sexual function and ability to get and maintain an erection. This can also lead to problems with incontinence.

Beginning your yearly prostate screening tests should start by the time you are fifty. Gender identity should not keep you from getting medical care or having this important discussion with your doctor. If you have a history of prostate cancer in your family, make it a point to have this conversation with your doctors before you turn fifty.

Lung cancer. Those men who smoke are at a greater risk for lung cancer. Current studies show that bisexual and gay men are more likely to smoke than heterosexual men (ACS). Smoking is linked to over eighty-percent of all lung cancer deaths in the United States. Smoking is also linked to many other types of cancer and causes of other tobacco-related diseases like heart disease, stroke, emphysema, and bronchitis. These studies have shown higher smoking rates for bisexual and gay men due to the commonality of smoking in bars and clubs where socialization happens. Even if you are a non-smoker, be around places with smoky air increases your overall risk of lung cancer.

How can I lower my risk for lung cancer?

This type of cancer can most often be prevented by not smoking or using tobacco products. If you are not a smoker, do not start. Reducing your exposure to secondhand smoke should also be a priority.

Colon cancer. Most all colorectal cancers are found in people age fifty or older. Others with a personal or family history of this disease, or rectal polyps, inflammatory bowel disease, and type 2 diabetes are at a greater risk. Living at an unhealthy weight, eating processed meats, drinking alcohol heavily, smoking and being inactive leading a sedentary lifestyle also increase your risk.

What can I do to lessen my risk for developing colon cancer?

There are many things that can be done to lessen your overall risk. Maintaining a healthy weight, eating well, being active, limiting alcohol consumption, and not smoking can all help lower your risk. Colon cancer almost always begins with a polyp, which is a small growth on the lining of the colon or rectum. Testing can find these polyps before they grow into cancer. If precancerous polyps are removed, colon cancer can be prevented. If regular screening and testing are done, colon cancer can be found at an early stage which makes a smoother path for the patient and whole-healing.

What are the screenings and tests done to detect colon cancer?

For those with an average risk of colon or rectal cancer, the American Cancer Society states regular screenings begin at age forty-five. Screenings can be done with stool-based tests and visual exams. These are some of the possible tests:

-Stool-based Tests

Yearly fecal immunochemical test

Yearly guaiac-based fecal occult blood test

Multi-targeted stool DNA test every 3 years

-Visual exams of the colon and rectum

Colonoscopy every 10 years

CT colonography every 5 years

Flexible sigmoidoscopy every 5 years

If you are at a higher risk for colon cancer based on family history or lifestyle choices, you may need testing to begin earlier. Speak with your doctor and medical care team to find out which course of treatment and testing is best for you.

Skin Cancer. Anyone can get skin cancer at any time in their lives. It is most common in those who spend a lot of their time outside, have fair skin, and those with blonde or red hair. These things increase the rate of skin cancer development in humans. Those who have a weakened immune system or first-degree family member with skin cancer also have a higher risk.

What can I do to lessen my risk of developing skin cancer?

Here are some tips for lowering your risk:

Limit the time spent in the sun, especially from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., when its rays are strongest.

Protect your skin by wearing hats with wide brims, long-sleeve shirts, and sunglasses when you are outside. 

Use broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher on all exposed skin. Always follow the label directions when applying. Be sure to wear sunscreen on cloudy or overcast days, too, because UV rays travel through clouds. Remember to reapply after ever water exit, or every two hours.

Avoid other sources of UV light, like tanning beds and sunlamps. These are dangerous and can damage your skin.

Know your skin, and report any skin changes to a health care provider. Have a skin exam done during your regular health check-ups. Always check for abnormal growths or changes in moles, bumps or lumps.

Anal Cancer. An infection of the human papilloma virus or HPV increases your overall risk for anal cancer. Contracting HPV can happen through anal sex and by having many sexual partners. Smoking also increases your risk for this cancer. Having a weakened immune system or the HIV infection also makes your body more susceptible to developing this and many other types of cancer.

What can I do to prevent anal cancer?

You can lower your risk for developing anal cancer by limiting your number of sexual partners and always practicing safe sex. While condoms will not always prevent the spread or contracting of the human papilloma virus, it can help lower the risk. HPV vaccines can help to lower the risk of an HPV infection and has also shown positive signs for lowering the risk of anal cancer in men. This vaccine is recommended for bisexual and gay men up to age twenty-six.

Take note of any rectal or anal symptoms or changes and report them to your healthcare provider immediately. In most cases, a simple rectal exam will find the early signs of any disease. Some doctors will also give an anal Pap test for those who have a higher risk of this cancer. If you are unsure which tests you should be having, consult with your medical care team to ensure you are on the right path for whole-body healing.

Testicular cancer. Over half of the testicular cancers in men occur between the ages of twenty and thirty-four years old. Caucasian men have a higher risk of developing this cancer than other races of males. One main factor in the development of testicular cancer is a condition called cryptorchidism, which means undescended testicle or testicles. A family history of testicular cancer and men with the HIV infection and AIDS have a much higher risk for having this cancer.

What can I do to ensure I do not get, or have my testicular cancer detected early?

Most of these cancers first begin with a lump on the testicle that is often painless. Some men may also notice swelling or an unidentified heaviness or ache in the lower abdomen or scrotum. Most all medical care professionals suggest you give yourself monthly testicular self-exams after the onset of puberty. This will help you learn your testicles and know when something abnormal appears. If you notice any sudden changes, contact your medical care provider without waiting.

What should I take away from this information?

The LGBTQ community has an overall higher risk and incidence of many risk factors that are linked to many types of cancer. It is important to remember to make the important lifestyle changes that you can be ensure you are living your life in the safest way possible. Here are basic reminders and risk-lowering factors for bisexual and gay men when it comes to contracting and developing cancer:

Quit smoking and stay away from secondhand smoke.

Get to and maintain a healthy weight.

Limit alcohol to 2 drinks per day, if you drink at all.

Eat a healthy diet with an emphasis on whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.

Be physically active every day.

Limit sedentary behaviors such as sitting, lying down, watching TV, and other forms of screen-based entertainment as much as possible.

-Practice safe sex methods with each and every sexual partner you have. Be tested for all sexually transmitted diseases.

Remember that regular medical care and screenings are vital to detecting and treating cancer in the early stages. Sometimes this means you might have no symptoms at all, and only find out your diagnosis through regular blood screenings. This is why medical visits are important for your overall health. If you suspect you may be dealing with any form of cancer in your body, make your appointment with your medical care team immediately.

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Reclaiming Intimacy

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