Men who have sex with men are at a higher risk for cancer

Men who have sex with men (MSM) get certain types of cancer more often than their heterosexual counterparts. Lung, skin, prostate, colon, anal and testicular cancers are a concern for all men, certainly, but MSM often have to deal with an additional set of issues that put them more at risk.   

Not surprisingly, lung cancer is at the top of the list. Research shows that MSM are more likely to smoke (33.2%) than straight men (21.3%). The simple solution would be to stop smoking, right? Not so easy. And what about the other forms of cancer? 

The American Cancer Society’s Website summarizes the problem in three bullet points:

  • Low rates of health insurance: Many health insurance policies do not cover unmarried partners. This makes it harder for many MSM to get quality health care.
  • Fear of discrimination: Many men don’t tell their doctors about their sex life because they don’t want discrimination to affect the quality of their health care. This can make it harder to establish a trusting relationship with a provider which, in turn, can lead to missed opportunities to address health concerns.
  • Negative experiences with health care professionals: Many MSM report negative experiences with a health care provider after revealing the nature of their sexual encounters. As a result, fear of another negative experience can lead some men to delay or avoid medical care, including early detection tests. 

One solution to health care discrimination might be to find a doctor you can be honest with—not just someone who’s okay with you having sex with other men, but someone who is competent enough to deal with your unique health issues. You may need to do a fair amount of investigative work. Start by checking out the provider directory on the Gay & Lesbian Medical Association Website. You can also screen doctors before you commit to making someone your primary care physician. Ask pointed questions. If you don’t get a good vibe, try someone else.

Another way to overcome discrimination in health care is to take charge of your own health. If your doctor doesn’t know to or want to suggest an anal cancer screening (for example) you’ll need to request it yourself.

Finally, knowing your unique health risks is half the battle. Information is Power. You can find out more about each of the cancer risks on the American Cancer Society Website. You can also check out About.com for a guide to cancer prevention for MSM. To find out more about cigarette smoking and programs to help you quit, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Website’s section on gay and bisexual men’s health.

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