Experts already believe that gay men face a higher risk of anal, lung, testicular and immune-system cancers, she said. For their part, lesbians are thought to possibly be at higher risk of breast cancer, perhaps because many of them don't give birth.
But firm statistics are hard to find. "I can't tell you if we have an increased rate of lung cancer, because no national cancer registries are collecting information about sexual orientation," Margolies said. "We're left hidden in that data, which is critical for us to have. We know that white women are more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer and black women more likely to die from it. That's important to know, and we need to know similar things so we can get funding and set up programs that address our needs."
While things are changing, she added, another long-standing challenge for gays has been an unwelcoming atmosphere in many medical offices. "Until we can guarantee a safe, respectful and welcoming experience, we're not going to show up," she said.
There's more on gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender health at the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
SOURCES: Liz Margolies, LCSW, executive director, National LGBT Cancer Network, New York City; Ulrike Boehmer, Ph.D., associate professor, community health sciences, Boston University School of Public Health; May 9, 2011, Cancer, online
All rights reserved