LGBTQ Risk Factors for Breast Cancer

Research indicates that women from LGBTQ communities may experience breast cancer risk factors differently to women in the general population. We may experience more of the risk factors together, in combination, than other women. This is what we mean when we talk about having a ‘unique clustering’ of risk factors for breast cancer that may put us at higher risk.

These risk factors include:

  • Not giving birth, or giving birth later in life which increases the risk of breast cancer.

  • Higher rates of alcohol consumption – LGBTQ women have a higher rate of alcohol consumption compared to the general population. High alcohol consumption increases risk of breast cancer.

  • Higher rates of smoking – LGBTQ women smoke at twice (almost triple) the rate of the general population. Smoking is a leading cause of dozens of cancers including breast cancer.

  • Use of hormones - research suggests that long-term use of estrogen increases risk of breast cancer. This might be relevant to some trans women.

People in LGBTQ communities also face structural and social barriers to cancer screening and might, therefore, access these services less. Historically, we have not been the focus of campaigns and health promotion to educate us about breast cancer, screening and risk.

The structural & SOCIAL barriers include:

  • Negative experiences at healthcare practices and poor treatment from health providers.

  • Fear of discrimination and stigma around sexuality and/or gender identity.

  • Stress and anxiety around ‘coming out’ to healthcare providers.

  • Inappropriate or triggering language used by healthcare professional to describe body parts.

  • Healthcare providers not using correct pronouns.