Cancer Facts for Gay Men
Gay men experience different rates of certain types of cancer because of our risk factors. It is important to recognize and address our barriers in health. Many gay men don’t tell their doctors about their sexual orientation because they don’t want discrimination to affect the quality of health care they receive. Fear of a negative experience with a health care professional can lead some to delay or avoid routine care such as early detection tests. Missing routine cancer screenings can lead to cancer being diagnosed at a later stage, when it’s harder to treat. Today, there are many LGBT friendly health professionals. Don’t give up – find the respectful care you deserve. A lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community center such as Qmunity (1170 Bute street / 604 684-5307) may be able to refer you to LGBT friendly health care providers.
Lung cancer is more prevalent in gay men:
People who smoke are at greatest risk for lung cancer, and the American Cancer Society reports that gay and bisexual men are more likely to smoke (33.2%) than men in the general population (21.3%). Lung cancer is one of the few cancers that can often be prevented simply by not smoking. If you don’t smoke, don’t start, and reduce your exposure to second hand smoke by seeking smoke-free places.
Prostate cancer is less prevalent in gay men:
Here is the good news. A recent study on cancer survivorship and sexual orientation showed that gay men have a lower rate of prostate cancer. The reason for this is unknown but this recent data is an interesting contrast to a 1987 study which showed the opposite. Regardless of sexual orientation, it is important for all men to be aware of this risk. Prostate cancer can usually be found in its early stages by having a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test and a rectal exam. Your doctor should do these tests every year starting at the age of 50.
Let’s be honest, most gay men know what their prostate is supposed to feel like. Let your doctor know if you have any abnormal sensations. Check your own prostate regularly or have some fun by getting your partner to feel it for you. You are looking for changes in size. Your prostate is located about 1.5 inches inside your rectum toward the front. It should normally be about the size of a walnut. If you notice a change in size or any abnormalities on the surface of your prostate gland you should talk to your doctor.
Anal cancer is more prevalent in gay men:
Exposure to the human papilloma virus (HPV) increases the risk of anal cancer. HPV risk is increased by having anal intercourse and many sex partners. The vaccine Gardasil can prevent harmful strains of HPV that cause warts and cancer. For more information on the HPV vaccine, click here. You can also reduce your risk of anal cancer by having fewer and more trusted partners. If you are not the relationship type, trusted fuck buddies are a safer bet. Condoms will not always protect against HPV, because HPV can pass by skin-to-skin contact with any area of the body. Still, condoms are effective in prevention of HPV and very important to protect against HIV and other diseases that are passed on through body fluids. A rectal exam will find some cases of anal cancer early so see a doctor you trust and make him aware of what risks you may have taken.
All men should see a doctor or nurse on a regular basis to get the cancer screenings that are appropriate for them and support to make healthy lifestyle choices that reduce cancer risk. Knowing about these cancers and how they can be prevented or found early may save your life.