Sexual Preference May Increase Your Risk of Skin Cancer

The Study

As reported in a recent study by JAMA Dermatology, there is an increased prevalence of skin cancer in gay and bisexual men. The analysts for the study looked at surveys from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System for four different years to conduct proper, cross-sectional research. The total number of participants in the questionnaires was reported at 845,264. In this study, it was found that skin cancer rates and the total number of participants for the people studied were as follows:

  • Gay Men (7,516) – 8.1%
  • Bisexual Men (5,088) – 8.4%
  • Heterosexual Men (351,468) – 6.7%
  • Lesbian Women (5,392) – 5.9%
  • Bisexual Women (9,445) – 4.7%
  • Heterosexual Women (466,355) – 6.6%

According to one of the lead researchers on the study, skin cancer rates for lesbian women are, “not a statistically significant difference … however, the rate [for bisexual women] was … significantly lower than heterosexual women.” When looking at the odds and taking into consideration various factors including sample size, percent error, adjusted odds ratio, etc., the higher rate at which gay and bisexual men developed skin cancer is considered to be statistically significant. The exact reasons for which gay and bisexual men have increased rates for skin cancer are unknown, but more research will be done to determine these causes.

The article continues to review an editorial piece where the author asserted the great importance of this study. They stated that for sexual and gender minority citizens, skin diseases are often overlooked or “hidden from existing research on health” (Yeung, Braun & Goodman, 2020).

Risks for Developing Skin Cancer

While most skin cancers can be treated quickly and efficiently, it is important to realize the risks associated with the disease to better your chances of finding it swiftly. Some such risks include:

  • Age: Our bodies are unable to maintain their immune systems as well when they are old as when they were young. As we age, our immune systems begin to fail to account for abnormal growths like they once could. This, along with the amount of sunlight accumulated throughout your life, leads to an increased risk of skin cancer.
  • Gender: As evidenced in the study above and others, males are more likely to develop skin cancer at some point in their lifetime.
  • Skin Tone: Lighter skin, hair, and/or eye tones increase the risk of developing skin cancer due to having less protective melanin (pigment).
  • Genetic Risks: A history of skin cancer in your family or a history of sunburns can be an indicator of your risk of developing skin cancer.
  • Chemical or Radiation Exposure: Being exposed to chemicals such as arsenic or mercury, as well as a history of radiation (including medical procedures or sunlight), can drastically increase your chance of developing skin cancer.
  • Sunshine: Living in areas near the equator or in high elevations where the sunlight is stronger can increase your risk of skin cancer due to the intense amount of radiation.

Skin cancer is an incredibly prevalent disease, yet it is also one that can usually be treated if caught early. It is recommended that you have a comprehensive skin exam by a dermatologist or general practitioner every year. If you have a spot or mark on your body that concerns you, contact us today.