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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

BU: Transgender Cancer Survivors Have Complex Medical Needs

Among the near 17 million cancer survivors in the U.S., an estimated 62,530 are transgender, according to a first-of-its-kind Boston University School of Public Health study. Published in the journal Cancer, it is the first population-based study of cancer prevalence in transgender people, and the first to examine the health of transgender cancer survivors.

The study found that transgender men are twice as likely as cisgender men to have had cancer, that transgender men and transgender women cancer survivors are more likely to have diabetes and cardiovascular disease than cisgender survivors, and that nonbinary cancer survivors have high rates of depression and unhealthy lifestyle factors.

“We hope these findings are a wake-up call for health care providers that transgender cancer survivors have complex medical needs,” says study lead author Dr. Ulrike Boehmer, associate professor of community health sciences.

“Further, in light of recent efforts to legalize discrimination against this population, any health agency that is not publicly welcoming transgender individuals is worsening transgender survivors’ health care experiences, and possibly augmenting their poor cancer survivorship,” she says.

Dr. Boehmer and colleagues used 2014-2018 data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System for the 37 states and one territory (Guam) that include gender identity questions on their surveys.

They found that trans and nonbinary people had less education, were less likely to have health insurance, and were more likely to be low-income and have unmet medical needs due to cost of care. The trans/nonbinary respondents were also less likely to have a personal physician than cisgender women, but not cisgender men.

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