Cancer Healthcare Disparities Exist in the LGBTQ Community, Say Moffitt Cancer Center Researchers

July 23, 2015

TAMPA, Fla. – The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender/Transsexual, Queer/Questioning (LGBTQ) community is a growing and medically-underserved minority population in the United States, with 3 to 12 percent of the population estimated to identify as LGBTQ. Moffitt Cancer Center researchers published one of the first articles that describe the current knowledge about cancers that may disproportionately affect the LGBTQ community, and also offered suggestions for improving their healthcare. 

LGBTQ community deals with significant economic and health disparities. Gay and lesbian families tend to be poorer than heterosexual families, and LGBTQ adults are less inclined to seek health services than heterosexual adults.  It is reported that up to 30 percent of LGBTQ adults do not regularly see a physician compared to 10 percent of heterosexual adults.  Many LGBTQ people deal with significant barriers to healthcare, including insurance issues, fear of stigmatization and a lack of trust in physician-patient confidentiality. 

Moffitt researchers analyzed the current LGBTQ literature for prevention, early detection, diagnosis, treatment, survivorship and end-of life data for seven different cancers – anal, breast, cervical, colorectal, colon and rectal, endometrial, lung and prostate cancers. 

They discovered that there has been very limited effort in delineating the epidemiological patterns and medical needs of the LGBTQ community in regard to cancer.  Matthew B. Schabath, Ph.D., assistant member of the Cancer Epidemiology Program at Moffitt noted, “this is particularly important given the finding that some LGBTQ groups tend to have a higher prevalence of many cancer risk factors and behaviors, including higher rates of smoking, alcohol consumption, obesity and high-risk sexual behavior.”

The Moffitt researchers also reported that some LGBTQ subgroups have higher incidence and death rates of certain types of cancer, including a higher incidence of anal cancer in gay men and cervical cancer in lesbian and bisexual women. However, for the majority of the researched types of cancer, epidemiological data did not exist or was inconclusive. 

Given the lack of information and data regarding the LGBTQ community and cancer, the researchers explained that it is critically important for local, state and national surveys and registries to collect the gender identity and sexual orientation status of their study populations. They also suggested that changes should be made to insurance and governmental policies to expand insurance coverage and reduce health disparities for the LGBTQ community. 

The Moffitt researchers recommended several avenues for sexual minorities to access LGBTQ-friendly services, including the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association’s database of physicians and The Healthcare Equality Index. 

Gwendolyn P. Quinn, Ph.D., senior member of the Health Outcomes & Behavior Program at Moffitt, explained, “as a growing and medically-underserved population, the cancer related needs and concerns of the LGBTQ community are a crucial area to be addressed among both healthcare providers and the research community.  Increased awareness of the cultural diversity of each group, as well as the collection of important demographic information from this group is necessary so larger repositories of research about each community are available, and programs and intervention can be designed to meet their unique needs.” 

The study was published online ahead of print in the CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians. The research was supported in part by a National Cancer Institute Cancer Center Support Grant (P30-CA76292) issued to Moffitt Cancer Center. 

About Moffitt Cancer Center

Located in Tampa, Moffitt is one of only 41 National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers, a distinction that recognizes Moffitt’s excellence in research, its contributions to clinical trials, prevention and cancer control. Moffitt is the top-ranked cancer hospital in the Florida and has been listed in U.S. News & World Report as one of the “Best Hospitals” for cancer care since 1999. With more than 4,500 employees, Moffitt has an economic impact in Florida of nearly $1.6 billion. For more information, visit MOFFITT.org, and follow the Moffitt momentum on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

 

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