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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

UNC: For Cancer Patients Who Identify as Sexual and Gender Minorities, There Is a Serious Research Gap

Although research on cancer patients who identify as sexual and gender minorities has grown over the past few years, more studies are needed to improve cancer care delivery and outcomes for these underserved populations, according to a new paper from the University of North Carolina Gillings School of Global Public Health.

In the most recent issue of the journal Cancer, Dr. Erin Kent, associate professor of health policy and management, co-authored a review of the experiences that individuals of sexual and gender minorities face in cancer care. Dr. Kent, who joined the Gillings School faculty this summer, conducted the study while she worked at the National Cancer Institute.

Although sexual and gender minorities (SGMs) face a disproportionate burden of cancer, only limited data are available on cancer experiences among SGM men and women. Dr. Kent and her colleagues’ review found substantial gaps in research on SGM cancer patients due to a lack of population-based data and small sample sizes – likely because sexual orientation and gender identity information is not systematically collected in cancer care environments.

This research gap limits the recognition of cancer and other health disparities in this underserved population, as data collected by hospitals and physicians’ offices are the primary source of information on new cancers for population-based cancer registries.

“This kind of demographic data is vital for understanding true population characteristics and burden of disease,” Dr Kent explains. “It is clear that we need studies to help understand how sexual orientation and gender identity information is being captured in health care settings and how to best facilitate safe, welcoming settings that meet the needs of sexual and gender minority patients.”

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