Lifestyle and Medical History Affect Cancer Risk: Facts for Gay and Bisexual Men

Gay and bisexual men have a higher risk of certain kinds of cancer. The cancers to be most aware of are discussed here. For many of them, you can do things to help lower your risk. You may even be able to prevent them from ever starting.

Lung cancer

Gay and bisexual men are more likely to smoke than heterosexual men. Smoking raises their risk for lung cancer. And for each person who dies from smoking, 30 other people are living with a serious health problem linked to the habit. Some of these problems are stroke, lung disease, and heart disease.

If you have HIV, smoking can reduce your life expectancy a lot. That's even if you have the HIV under control.

Anal cancer

Anal cancer is fairly rare among heterosexual males. It's much more likely to occur in gay and bisexual men. The main risk factor for it is having anal sex with men. The risk of getting anal cancer is even greater if you've been exposed to HPV (the human papillomavirus). The risk is also higher if you:

  • Have had many sex partners or unprotected sex

  • Smoke

  • Have a weakened immune system as a result of HIV

Skin cancer

Anyone can get skin cancer. You are at a higher risk, though, if you have:

  • Fair skin

  • A history of bad sunburns at a young age

  • Frequent and prolonged sun exposure

  • A weakened immune system

  • Close family members with skin cancer

Prostate cancer

All men are at risk for prostate cancer. In fact, there are more new cases of prostate cancer found each year in men than any other cancer. But it's more likely to occur in:

  • African-American men

  • Those with a family history of prostate cancer

  • Men older than age 50

Testicular cancer

Some studies have found that men may be at a higher risk for this type of cancer if they have HIV or AIDS. Testicular cancer tends to happen in younger men between ages 20 and 34. Men also have a higher risk for it if they:

  • Are white

  • Have undescended testicles

  • Have a family history of testicular cancer

Colon cancer

This cancer happens most often in men who are age 50 and older. It's also more likely in men with:

  • Inflammatory bowel disease

  • Colon or rectal polyps

  • Personal or family history of colon cancer

These lifestyle factors also play a role in the risk for colon cancer:

  • Smoking

  • Being overweight

  • Not being active

  • Eating a diet with a lot of red and processed meat

What can be done?

If you have risk factors for any of these cancers, you can help lower your risk by:

  • Eating a healthy diet

  • Exercising and being active

  • Limiting your alcohol intake

  • Not smoking

It's also important to get regular checkups and cancer screenings. Talk with a healthcare provider about the schedule that's best for you. These visits play a role in your overall health. They also help find cell changes (precancers) early before they become cancer. Finding cancer when it's small and hasn't spread often makes it easier to treat. 

Online Medical Reviewer: Kimberly Stump-Sutliff RN MSN AOCNS
Online Medical Reviewer: Maryann Foley RN BSN
Online Medical Reviewer: Raymond Kent Turley BSN MSN RN
Date Last Reviewed: 2/1/2019
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