Cancer Care Disparities Found in LGBTQ Community

Study finds significant barriers to health care access, including stigmatization.

Study finds significant barriers to health care access, including stigmatization.

Significant health care disparities were found among the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender/Transsexual, Queer/Questioning (LGBTQ) community during a recent study.

The LGBTQ community, which represents an estimated 3 to 12% of the US population, was found to deal with significant economic and health disparities in an analysis by Moffitt Cancer Center researchers. The study found that gay families tend to be poorer than heterosexual families and that LGBTQ adults are less likely to seek health services than heterosexual adults.

"This is particularly important given the finding that some LGBTQ groups tend to have a higher prevalence of many cancer risk factors and behaviors, including higher rates of smoking, alcohol consumption, obesity and high risk sexual behavior,” said Matthew B. Schabath, PhD, assistant member of the Moffitt Cancer Epidemiology Program.

The study found that up to 30% of LGBTQ adults do not see a physician regularly, compared with 10% of heterosexual adults. Barriers to health care in the LGBTQ community include insurance problems, fear of stigmatization, and low trust in physician-patient confidentiality, the study noted.

Researchers found specific LGBTQ subgroups carry higher incidence and death rates for certain types of cancer. Among these are higher anal cancer incidence in gay men and higher cervical cancer incidence in lesbian and bisexual women, according to the study.

The results showed the majority of researched cancer types in the LGBTQ community have epidemiological data that does not exist or is inconclusive. In light of this lack of data, researchers noted that it is of critical importance for local, state, and national surveys and registries to collect gender identity and sexual orientation status of study populations.

The results also indicate a need for changes to insurance and governmental policies in order to expand insurance coverage and to decrease health care disparities in the LGBTQ community.

“As a growing and medically-underserved population, the cancer related needs and concerns of the LGBTQ community are a crucial area to be addressed among both health care providers and the research community,” said Gwendolyn P. Quinn, PhD, senior member of the Health Outcomes and Behavior Program at Moffitt. “Increased awareness of the cultural diversity of each group, as well as the collection of important demographic information from this group is necessary so larger repositories of research about each community are available, and programs and intervention can be designed to meet their unique needs."