Journal of Behavioral Medicine

, Volume 34, Issue 3, pp 157–169 | Cite as

Perceived risk for cancer in an urban sexual minority

  • Jack E. Burkhalter
  • Jennifer L. Hay
  • Elliot Coups
  • Barbara Warren
  • Yuelin Li
  • Jamie S. Ostroff


Lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals are a sexual minority experiencing elevated cancer risk factors and health disaparites, e.g., elevated tobacco use, disproportionate rates of infection with human immunodeficiency virus. Little attention has been paid to cancer prevention, education, and control in sexual minorities. This study describes cancer risk perceptions and their correlates so as to generate testable hypotheses and provide a foundation for targeting cancer prevention and risk reduction efforts in this high risk population. A cross-sectional survey of affiliates of a large urban community center serving sexual minority persons yielded a study sample of 247 anonymous persons. The survey assessed demographics, absolute perceived cancer risk, cancer risk behaviors, desired lifestyle changes to reduce cancer risk, and psychosocial variables including stress, depression, and stigma. Univariate and multivariate nonparametric statistics were used for analyses. The sample was primarily white non-Hispanic, middle-aged, and > 80% had at least a high school education. Mean values for absolute perceived cancer risk (range 0–100% risk), were 43.0 (SD = 25.4) for females, and for males, 49.3 (SD = 24.3). For females, although the multivariate regression model for absolute perceived cancer risk was statistically significant (P < .05), no single model variable was significant. For men, the multivariate regression model was significant (P < .001), with endorsement of “don’t smoke/quit smoking” to reduce personal cancer risk (P < .001), and greater number of sexual partners (P = .054), positively associated with absolute perceived risk for cancer. This study provides novel data on cancer risk perceptions in sexual minorities, identifying correlates of absolute perceived cancer risk for each gender and several potential foci for cancer prevention interventions with this at-risk group.


Cancer risk perception Cancer risk factors Sexual minority Health disparities 



This research was supported by National Cancer Institute Grants R03 CA103485 and T32 CA009461. Dr. Burkhalter has received support from the LGBT Community Center as consultant on smoking cessation projects. All other authors report no competing interests. We gratefully acknowledge the counsel of Drs. Icek Ajzen and Margaret Rosario in study methodology and the assistance of Katherine Rowland, Meir Flancbaum, and Christopher Murray in study implementation, and Christopher Webster in manuscript preparation.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jack E. Burkhalter
    • 1
  • Jennifer L. Hay
    • 1
  • Elliot Coups
    • 2
  • Barbara Warren
    • 3
  • Yuelin Li
    • 1
  • Jamie S. Ostroff
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral SciencesMemorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer CenterNew YorkUSA
  2. 2.The Cancer Institute of New Jersey, UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical SchoolNew BrunswickUSA
  3. 3.Hunter College Institute for LGBT Social Science & Public PolicyNew YorkUSA

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