March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, and this is especially important to us because lesbians and gay men have higher rates of Colorectal Cancer (CRC) than heterosexuals. There are no available CRC statistics for bisexual and trans* individuals. Why not? While this lack of data is very concerning, in general there is limited information on cancer among LGBT individuals overall.
Colorectal cancer is “the second leading cancer killer in the United States.” This article on Slate does a great job of explaining the need for colonoscopies, that increasing exercise to prevent obesity can be preventative for colorectal cancer, and that physical activity started after a CRC diagnosis improves individuals outcomes! Additionally, cigarette smoking is also a colorectal cancer risk factor.
So how does our community measure up to these risks? We know that LGBT people consume tobacco at a higher rate than their heterosexual peers, and it’s been shown that lesbians and bisexual women have higher rates of obesity caused lack of a regular fitness routine. Gay men get screened at high rates for CRC, but gay black men get screened less than straight black men, lesbians get screened in numbers similar to straight women, and rates of screening among bisexuals and trans* folks have not been confirmed by research.
So what do we need to do? We need to make sure we focus on our health: staying active, eating healthy, and having regular screenings for CRC can reduce CRC deaths in our community. It should also be clear that we need to advocate for more LGBT specific research in colorectal, and other cancers, so we can understand how to change these high numbers!