An Introduction to Male Cancers

This information is designed to look at some of the cancers that gay and bisexual men are concerned about. It has been informed by gay & bisexual men and includes thoughts and feelings on how cancer has affected them.

Over 160,000 men are diagnosed with cancer in the UK every year.

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If only 3% of these are gay or bisexual men, this suggests that over 4,800 gay or bi men are diagnosed with some form of cancer annually.

There are over 200 different types of cancer, some linked with smoking, alcohol and other lifestyle factors such as lack of exercise, poor diet and sexual health. Community surveys suggest that gay men, in general, drink and smoke more than straight men, putting them at greater health risk. There is currently an absence of reliable data on the health needs of gay and bisexual men and many gay and bisexual men don’t discuss cancer with a healthcare professional.

This means that there is a need for gay and bisexual men to become more aware of the risks of health issues such as cancer, and be more open about discussing their sexual orientation with health professionals to help them understand wider health issues. Although cancer risk is affected by hereditary factors, we can have control over many things that affect our own chances of developing cancer.

MAKING CHANGES to our lives such as stopping smoking, drinking less alcohol, protecting our skin from the sun, and looking after our sexual health means that we will be healthier and if we become affected by cancer, the success of any treatment is less likely to be undermined. Some cancers present with early symptoms so knowing about these can help us to get checked out and get treatment. However, many cancers do not have early symptoms, so regular alertness to changes in the body is something we can all be more aware of.

Please remember that cancer no longer need be a ‘life’ or ‘death’ scenario, as many illnesses are entirely treatable albeit with many different treatments and effects. The important thing is to be less afraid of discussing cancer.

This resource has been produced by The Lesbian & Gay Foundation in partnership with The Health & Wellbeing Service at Manchester Mental Health and Social Care Trust. We would also like to thank The Christie Hospital NHS Foundation Trust for their support along with Prostate Cancer UK, Macmillan, Cancer Research UK and all the cancer charities and supporting organisations mentioned in this booklet. We’d also like to thank Public Health England (PHE) for many of the images used in this guide.