Study: Gay men get cancer more often

Bret Camp

Study also finds that lesbians, bisexual women report poorer health than straight women after surviving cancer

DAVID TAFFET | Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

A new study released this week in Cancer, a journal published by the American Cancer Society, suggests that gay men have a higher prevalence of cancer than heterosexual men.

Data came from interviews done in 2001, 2003 and 2005 of cancer survivors in California and was the largest state health survey to include questions about sexual orientation.

Lesbian and bisexual women who survived cancer reported poorer health, but in this study did not contract cancer at a higher rate. Male cancer survivors do not report a difference in health levels.

Researchers were not sure if gay men were developing more cancerous tumors or if their survival rate was actually higher. The survey interviewed more than 122,000 survivors. No study has tracked people who died of cancer by sexual orientation.

The study did not look into causes for the differences, but a number of reasons have been suggested.

Gay men smoke at a higher rate than the general population, which may account for some of the higher cancer rate.

Bret Camp, associate executive director of health and medical services at Nelson-Tebedo Clinic, suggested two causes for the difference in rate between gay and straight men.

Certain cancers develop as opportunistic infections related to HIV, which might partially explain the difference, he said. The study did not factor in HIV or track how many participants were HIV-positive.

Camp also suggested that another factor might be the human papillomavirus. HPV is sexually transmitted and can cause anal cancer.

Physician assistant Trew Deckard said, “Ano-rectal cancer is highest among HIV-positive gay men [some literature points to at least 35 times the general population], and the second highest rate of ano-rectal cancer is found in HIV-negative gay men.”

He said that ano-rectal cancer found in greater rates in both HIV-positive and -negative gay men is related to the presence of high-risk HPV types found in these populations.

While smoking traditionally has caused most oral cancer, the rate has jumped 225 percent since 1974. A 2007 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that people who had oral sex with six or more different partners in a lifetime are almost nine times more likely to contract oral cancer.

According to the report, gay men also developed cancer on average 10 years younger than straight men. Cancers that result from sexually transmitted diseases may account for that difference as well.

Cancer in lesbians

The difference in reported levels of health among women may be a result of a number of factors.

According to Andra Baker who ran a lesbian support group for cancer survivors at Gilda’s Club in Dallas, now known as Cancer Support Community, lesbians tend to access regular health care less frequently than straight women.

“Lesbians don’t go to the doctor as much,” she said.

That may mean that many lesbians and bisexual women are not as likely to detect their cancers at an early stage, making recovery for them more difficult.

The study did not collect information on stage of diagnosis or whether straight women on average report better health because they are recovering from a smaller tumor.

Baker said social support does affect survival and was somewhat surprised by the results showing worse health among lesbian and bisexual survivors.

“Women who attended my group didn’t have lower health or rates of survival,” she said.

But she was working with women who did seek out support, she said.

Baker, who is a survivor herself, said that people who jump into the fight are the ones who do better. She cited Lance Armstrong as an example of someone who adopted a competitive attitude to beat his cancer.

“Stress has a negative effect on the immune system,” she said.

Ulrike Boehmer, one of the study’s authors, put forward the idea of minority stress. Discrimination, prejudice and even violence experienced by lesbians and bisexual women take their toll on psychological health, which can affect overall well being, according to Boehmer.

Just having to come out to each health care provider can be stressful. Hiding people in a survivor’s support system can have a negative effect on recovery, Boehmer said.

She suggested that the study should be used to develop new services for the LGB population including cancer prevention and early detection programs for men and well being programs for women.

—  John Wright

Deaths

Marion A. Weger, 61, died at his Dallas residence on March 7.

Born Nov. 28, 1949, Weger was a native of Paradise, Texas, and had lived in the Dallas area for the last 20 years. He co-owned Gratitude Vintage Clothing store with his late partner, Don Dent, for 19 years, and was very proud of the fact that the Oak Lawn shop was named top vintage clothing store in Dallas by Dallas Observer in 2010.

Weger and Dent had been a couple for more than 20 years when Dent died last June. They were both loved and will be deeply missed by family and their many friends.

Services for Weger were held Wednesday, March 16 at Park Cities Presbyterian Church. Memorial donations in his name can be made to that church or to the American Cancer Society.

—  John Wright

AIDS Arms announces board officers, new development director

CALL TO ARMS | John Loza, center, heads the new board of AIDS Arms. Also shown, from left, Jesse Garcia, Ken Morris, Loza, David Pass and Dennis Felhman (courtesy AIDS Arms)

Agency focusing on capital campaign to fund new clinic,  continue to provide client services

From Staff Reports
editor@dallasvoice.com

Officials with AIDS Arms this week announced the hiring of a new director of development and the election of officers for the agency’s board of directors for 2011.

Attorney and former Dallas City Council member and former Deputy Mayor Pro Tem John Loza was elected as chairman of the AIDS Arms board. Other board officers are David Pass as vice chair and Ken Morris as second vice chair. Dennis Felhman was re-elected as treasurer, and Jesse Garcia was re-elected as secretary.

The board officers are tasked with overseeing the funding and stewardship of the agency during the expansion of medical care services, including a new clinic that is expected to open this summer.

Loza, who works as a criminal defense attorney, holds a degree in government from Harvard University and a law degree from Southern Methodist University.

Pass has a bachelor’s degree in science from Indiana University, and a master’s degree in health administration master’s degree in information management from Washington University in St. Louis. He is a senior account executive with Aetna.

Fehlman, serving his third year as treasurer, is a senior vice president at Comerica Bank. He has a bachelor’s degree in business administration and accounting from Grand Valley State University in Michigan.

Garcia, a public affairs specialist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service, has a bachelor’s degree in communications arts from Our Lady of the Lake University, and a master’s degree in communications arts from St. Mary’s University.

The new development director is Don Macey, a native Dallasite who recently returned to the area after holding senior development positions with the American Cancer Society, the Arthritis Foundation and the Colorado Symphony Orchestra.

“We are very pleased to have Dan Macey join AIDS Arms. His knowledge of health care, the needs of HIV-positive people and a close connection to the Dallas area will be beneficial to our vision and goals for increasing access to quality HIV care and support for our community,” Loza said.

“We have much to accomplish in combating the HIV epidemic on behalf of our clients, and we know Dan will add great value to that effort,” he added.

According to a statement released by AIDS Arms, Macey is tasked with “increasing awareness for the needs of both HIV-positive and high-risk individuals in the community by building the resources required to continue providing medical care, case management, HIV prevention and testing and many other programs.”

Macey’s primary focus will be the Call to Arms Campaign to pay for the new 15,000-square-feet outpatient medical care clinic for people with HIV. He will work with his team, including Sheila Bryant and Karen Campbell, and with the board of directors and

AIDS Arms Executive Director Raeline Nobles toward that goal.

AIDS Arms provides HIV testing and prevention services, case management, community education and support services to more than 7,000 people a year within a 10-county area in North Texas.

The agency also operates The Peabody Health Center, which is the only private, nonprofit HIV outpatient medical facility in Dallas, and the only community-based AIDS clinical research site in Texas for the National Institutes of Health.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Jan. 28, 2011.

—  John Wright