ASCO Issues Recommendations for Reducing Cancer Disparities Among Sexual and Gender Minority Populations



ASCO has issued recommendations addressing the needs of sexual and gender minority populations as they relate to cancer. 

Daniel F. Hayes, MD, FACP, FASCO

Daniel F. Hayes, MD, FACP, FASCO

The recommendations, published in a policy statement in the Journal of Clinical Oncology,1 are designed to focus attention on the challenges facing the sexual and gender minority community—including discrimination and greater risk of anxiety and depression, resulting in disparate care—and concrete steps to help minimize health disparities among sexual and gender minority individuals.

Sexual and gender minorities face unique challenges related to cancer risk, discrimination, and other psychosocial issues,” said ASCO President Daniel F. Hayes, MD, FACP, FASCO. “Compounding these challenges is the fact that providers may have a lack of knowledge and sensitivity about the health risks and health needs facing their [sexual and gender minority] patients.”

Sexual and gender minorities include those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (also referred to as those with differences in sex development). The statement notes that sexual and gender minority populations bear a disproportionate cancer burden stemming from several factors, including:

  • Lower rates of cancer screening—in part due to lower rates of insurance coverage, exclusion from traditional screening campaigns, and previous experience of discrimination in the health-care system
  • A hesitancy on the part of sexual and gender minority patients to disclose their sexual orientation to providers due to a fear of stigmatization, which can create additional barriers to care

In the statement, which was reviewed by the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association, ASCO calls for a coordinated effort to address health disparities among sexual and gender minority populations, including:

  • Increased patient access to culturally competent support services
  • Expanded cancer prevention education for sexual and gender minority individuals
  • Robust policies prohibiting discrimination
  • Adequate insurance coverage to meet the needs of sexual and gender minority individuals affected by cancer
  • Inclusion of sexual and gender minority status as a required data element in cancer registries and clinical trials
  • Increased focus on sexual and gender minority populations in cancer research

Part of ASCO’s long history of working to reduce disparities in cancer care, these recommended actions are aimed at raising the quality of care and health maintenance for the sexual and gender minority population, as well as for members of the oncology workforce who identify as members of sexual and gender minority communities. For oncology professionals, ASCO recommends concrete steps to help provide safe environments and focuses on increasing the number of sexual and gender minority health-care staff as part of oncology workforce diversity efforts. ■

Reference

1. Griggs J, Maingi S, Blinder V, et al: American Society of Clinical Oncology position statement: Strategies for reducing cancer health disparities among sexual and gender minority populations. J Clin Oncol. April 3, 2017 (early release online).

© 2017. American Society of Clinical Oncology. All rights reserved.



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