Gay men more likely to have cancer; Does HIV play a role?

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gay couple, two men, grieving, sad, homosexual men, homosexual couple, brothers, sad, stock, 4x3
istockphoto

(CBS) Cancer is always bad news, but a new study suggests homosexuals may struggle more than the rest.

Researchers at the Boston University School of Public Health found that gay men were 1.9 times more likely to report a cancer diagnosis than their straight counterparts. And lesbian and bisexual female cancer survivors were twice as likely to report fair or poor health compared to straight women. That comes from analysis of more than 120,000 people in a California health survey.

The strange findings left study authors with more questions than answers. Are gay men more likely to get cancer or more likely to survive? What about human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which is more prevalent amongst gay men? Study author Dr. Ulrike Boehmer told Reuters that HIV may be leading to an increased cancer risk in gay men, but the research did not specifically address the question. Higher rates of anal cancer amongst gay men might also be to blame.

Boehmer said what is clear is that more research is needed and the gay, lesbian and bi populations may need more help.

"Because more gay men report as cancer survivors, we need foremost programs for gay men that focus on primary cancer prevention and early cancer detection," Boehmer said in a statement. "Because more lesbian and bisexual women than heterosexual women with cancer report that they are in poor health, we need foremost programs and services that improve the well-being of lesbian and bisexual cancer survivors," 

The study was published in the journal Cancer.