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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 or even prevent them from ever starting.

Lung cancer

Gay and bisexual men are more likely to smoke than heterosexual men. Smoking increases their risk for lung cancer. And for every person who dies from smoking, another 30 people are living with a serious smoking-related illness, like stroke, emphysema, or heart disease.

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

Anal cancer

Anal cancer is a fairly rare disease among heterosexual males. It's much more common among 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 multiple sex partners or unprotected sex

  • Smoke

  • Have a weakened immune system as a result of HIV

Skin cancer

Anyone can get skin cancer. Those who have fair skin, had severe sunburns at a young age, and have frequent and prolonged sun exposure are at the greatest risk of getting skin cancer. Having a weakened immune system or close family members with skin cancer also puts a person at higher risk.

Prostate cancer

Prostate cancer tends to be more common in African-American men. It's also more likely in those with a family history of prostate cancer and men older than age 50. All men are at risk for prostate cancer. In fact, there are more new cases of prostate cancer diagnosed each year in men than any other cancer.

Testicular cancer

Some studies have found that men may be at a higher risk for testicular cancer if they have HIV or AIDS. Testicular cancer tends to happen in younger men, between ages 20 and 34. Men who are white, who have undescended testicles, and who have a family history of testicular cancer are also at an increased risk.

Colon cancer

This cancer happens most often in men who are age 50 and older. Men who have inflammatory bowel disease or have had colon or rectal polyps have a greater risk for colon cancer. A personal or family history of colon cancer also increases risk. These lifestyle factors also play a role in the risk for colon cancer:

  • Smoking

  • Being overweight

  • Being sedentary

  • 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 decrease 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 screening tests. Talk with a healthcare provider about the schedule that's best for you. These visits play a role in your overall health. They also allow cell changes (precancers) to be found and treated before they become cancer. And finding cancer when it's small and hasn't spread (early detection) 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: 1/3/2016
© 2000-2019 The StayWell Company, LLC. 800 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.