September 24, 2019
3 min read

‘Urgent need’ exists to better educate LGBTQI+ Latinx individuals on cancer screening, prevention

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Mayra Serrano, MPH, CHES
Mayra Serrano

Many LGBTQI+ Latinx individuals are afraid to share their gender identity and sexual orientation with a health care provider, and the vast majority do not receive tailored information on cancer screening and prevention, according to results of a survey-based study presented at American Association for Cancer Research Conference on the Science of Cancer Health Disparities in Racial/Ethnic Minorities and the Medically Underserved.

Most of the survey respondents were Latinx, a term for people of Latin American descent who possess a gender identity outside of the male/female binary.

“LGBTQI+ individuals experience substantial cancer health disparities, including being at higher risk [for] developing certain types of cancer, as do Latinx individuals of all sexual orientation and gender identity,” Mayra Serrano, MPH, CHES, manager of the Center of Community Alliance for Research & Education at City of Hope, said in a press release. “The LGBTQI+ Latinx community, therefore, faces the combined effects of being a racial/ethnic minority and sexual/gender minority group. If we are to overcome cancer health disparities for the LGBTQI+ Latinx community, we must first understand the needs of the community.”

Serrano and colleagues, in conjunction with Latinx Task Force, created an online needs assessment survey to study the LGBTQI+ Latinx community’s experience with cancer screening, prevention and risk-reduction strategies. Researchers recruited survey respondents at outreach events across Southern California and offered them entry into a raffle for a $50 gift card.

Serrano reported that 176 people (57% aged 21-39 years) had been surveyed as of June of this year, including those who identified as Latinx (n = 130), mixed race (n = 7), Asian (n = 1), Native American (n = 1), European (n = 1) or Pacific Islander (n = 1). The remaining 35 respondents (20%) did not specify their racial or ethnic identity.

Additionally, 134 (82%) identified as cisgender — indicating they identified exclusively as their sex assigned at birth — 70 identified as gay and 49 identified as queer.

Results showed 73% of respondents reported being afraid to share their gender identity and/or sexual orientation with a health care provider, with those identifying as queer being the most likely to experience this fear (P < .035). Ultimately, many respondents (44%) indicated they did share their gender identity or sexual orientation with all of their providers, although respondents who identified as bisexual appeared less likely to share this information.

Most survey respondents (71%) indicated they preferred to be seen by an LGBTQ-trained health provider, and 91% reported that they never received LGBTQ-tailored cancer information.


Among those aged 21 to 29 years, 60% had not had a Pap test in the past 3 years, compared with 22% of all eligible Americans. Most (53%) had not received the HPV vaccine.

Among those eligible for a mammogram, 50% reported they had not had one in 2 years, compared with 29% of eligible Americans. One-third indicated they were overdue for their routine colonoscopy.

Most respondents (78%) indicated they practice unprotected sex; gay men were the most likely to report this (P < .012). Almost 70% of all respondents self-reported binge drinking within the past year, and gay men appeared more likely to binge drink.

The study’s small size and lack of generalizability served as its main limitations, according to Serrano.

The findings suggest most health care providers lack cultural competency, Serrano said in the release. This could be reflected in their failure to use gender-neutral terms in conversations and printed materials and their assumption that individuals are cisgender or heterosexual when discussing sexual activity and birth control.

“The survey results show that there is an urgent need for LGBTQI+ Latinx cultural competency training for health care providers and for LGBTQI+-tailored information regarding cancer screening and prevention,” Serrano said. “We are collaborating with the Latinx Task Force and local LGBTQI+ organizations to develop educational materials tailored to the LGBTQI+ Latinx community and to develop cultural competency training guides for health care providers.” – by John DeRosier


Serrano M, et al. Abstract 34. Presented at: AACR Conference on the Science of Cancer Health Disparities in Racial/Ethnic Minorities and the Medically Underserved; Sept. 20-23, 2019; San Francisco.

Disclosures: Serrano reports no relevant financial disclosures. Please see the abstract for all authors’ relevant financial disclosures.