The causes of many cancers are unknown, but some factors may increase the risk if you’re LGBTQI+. Risk factors for intersex people depend on their specific variation, and have often been used as a reason for medical treatment of intersex people during childhood.
Delaying or avoiding cancer screening
Research shows that many LGBTQI+ people delay or avoid screening. This may be because they think mammograms or cervical screening are not for them because of who they have sex with. Trans people may find screening uncomfortable and upsetting. Trans, gender-diverse and intersex people may not receive appropriate screening reminders. Missing screening tests may mean cancer is diagnosed at a later stage when it is harder to treat.
Higher risk for smoking- and alcohol-related cancers
Studies show that there are higher rates of smoking and drinking alcohol among some LGBTQI+ people, often because of minority stress. These factors increase the risk of several cancers including breast, mouth, and bowel cancer. Smoking also increases the risk of lung and cervical cancers.
Higher risk of HPV (human papillomavirus)
This very common sexually transmitted infection causes many types of cancer, including cervical, anal, throat (oropharyngeal), penile, vulvar and vaginal. HPV can be passed on sexually, including by fingers and oral sex, or through sharing sex toys. The HPV vaccine can protect against the virus. For more information, visit hpvvaccine.org.au and thebottomline.org.au.
Living with HIV
Living with HIV/AIDS may make you more likely to develop some cancers. These are known as AIDS-defining cancers and include Kaposi sarcoma, aggressive B-cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma and cervical cancer. Some cancers are common in people living with 7 LGBTQI+ people and cancer HIV but are classified as non-AIDS-defining. They include anal, liver, oral cavity and pharynx and lung cancers, and Hodgkin lymphoma.
Lower rates of pregnancy
Pregnancy before age 30, breastfeeding and using oral contraceptives may all offer some protection from breast cancer and gynaecological cancers. Lesbian, bisexual and trans people are statistically less likely than cisgender heterosexual women to have a child before age 30. If you haven’t had children, you may not have breastfed or had a break in your menstrual cycle.
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The information on this webpage was last updated in December 2023.