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LGBTQ+ people at higher risk of some cancers possibly, due to fear of discrimination


(NEW YORK) — Ahead of Pride Month, a new report has highlighted increased cancer risk for those who identify as LGBTQ+ as researchers say that LBGTQ+ people may be more likely to smoke, drink alcohol or be living with obesity — all linked to cancer — and that they also may be more likely to avoid going to the doctor for fear of discrimination, which could cause delays in cancer diagnosis.

In an interview with ABC News, the chief scientific officer for the American Cancer Society Dr. William Dahut, also an experienced clinician-researcher in the field of prostate cancer, said that “we are very aware particularly in this population of a hesitancy about receiving healthcare. Because of biases, because of the lack of [physician] familiarity… we were concerned outcomes could be worse.”

The comprehensive analysis was released Friday by the American Cancer Society, a nonprofit organization focused on ending cancer for all people, and it is the first to provide national data on behavioral risk factors, cancer diagnoses and screening in this population.

Preventative cancer screening and vaccination rates in LGBTQ+ individuals were similar to heterosexual peers, except for lower cervical and colorectal cancer screening among transgender men.

“That was a little bit of positive news,” Dahut commented.

However, more than 1 million LGBTQ+ people are estimated to be living with cancer, although the research so far has been limited. The new report summarizes data collected from three major national surveys — the National Health Interview Survey, Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System and National Youth Tobacco Survey — to estimate risk factors and cancer incidence among those who identify as LGBTQ+.

The authors highlight policies in nine states where it is legal for medical professionals to refuse care to LGBTQ+ patients, covering an estimated 20% of the LGBTQ+ population.

Researchers said that doctors and nurses should be educated specifically on how to provide loving and inclusive care to LGBTQ+ people.

Sarah Danziger, M.D. is an Internal Medicine Resident at Dartmouth and a member of the ABC News Medical Unit.

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