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CALIFORNIA, May 9, 2011 ( – Homosexual men are twice as likely to have had cancer than men who are not homosexual, with the difference likely being explained by the high prevalence of anal cancer and HIV/AIDS among homosexual men, according to a study issued in California today.

The study, published in the journal Cancer, examined the cancer prevalence in men and women in categories of “sexual orientation” and subsequently compared the health of male and female cancer survivors. 

The study was based on data from a self-reporting survey conducted by the California Health Interview of over 120,000 people in the state of California over 2001, 2003, and 2005.  It is the largest state survey of its kind in the United States.

Of those interviewed, 1,493 men described themselves as homosexuals and 3,690 men reported a cancer diagnosis.  Homosexual men were 1.9 times more likely than other men to have had cancer and, on average, were diagnosed with cancer ten years earlier than other men.

“The greater cancer prevalence among gay men may be caused by a higher rate of anal cancer, as suggested by earlier studies that point to an excess risk of anal cancer,” said the study.

Ulrike Boehmer, the study’s lead author from the Boston University School of Public Health, said proven higher rates of HIV in homosexual men may be related to their increased risk of cancer, but the study did not address that question specifically.

HIV and AIDS have been linked to a series of cancers including Kaposi sarcoma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma as well as anal, lung, testicular cancer and Hodgkin lymphoma.  These types of cancer appear more common among those who engage in homosexual sex.

The survey found no significant difference between female cancer patients who described themselves as “gay” or “bisexual” and those who did not.  However, “gay” and “bisexual” females were twice as likely to report experiencing poor health after a cancer diagnosis than other females.

The survey did note, however, that by interviewing the “survivors” the survey did not give a true representation of cancer cases since some patients would have died or been too ill to report.

“Because more gay men report as cancer survivors, we need foremost programs for gay men that focus on primary cancer prevention and early cancer detection,” study author Boehmer reported.

“Because more lesbian and bisexual women than heterosexual women with cancer report that they are in poor health, we need foremost programs and services that improve the well-being of lesbian and bisexual cancer survivors,” she added.