Transgender Inclusion in Cancer Research
Approximately 1.4 million individuals1 in the U.S. identify as transgender—this catchall term refers to individuals whose gender identity differs from the biological sex assigned at birth (male, female). Some transgender individuals may take cross-sex hormones or undergo gender confirmation surgery. Other individuals may feel that neither the masculine nor feminine gender expression matches their identity (non-binary persons). People identifying as transgender are considered members of the “sexual and gender minorities” population which also includes lesbian, gay, and bisexual persons, but it is important to note that gender identity is independent from sexual and romantic attraction.
Until recently, research on cancer in this population has been limited to a few case reports, due to a paucity of available data. Transgender persons may be at higher risk for cancers related to viral infections (such as HIV, HPV, and HBV). Trans individuals who retain their natal genitalia are still at risk for reproductive cancers. Risk related to long-term use of high-dose estrogens or testosterone is currently unknown. The dearth of high-quality research has resulted in a lack of cancer screening guidelines for transgender individuals. This will become increasingly important as this population, many with long-term exposure to hormone therapy, increases and ages.
To learn more:
- Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender – What’s the difference? - NIH office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion
- What is transgender identity? Transgender 101 - NBC News
From the peer-reviewed literature
- Our colleagues in DCCPS published a scoping review last month about Sexual and gender minority patients with cancer and survivors in the journal Cancer
- A recent letter to the editor of the International Journal of Cancer discussed Sexual and gender minorities in cancer clinical trials
1Flores AR, Herman JL, Gates GJ, Brown TNT. How Many Adults Identify as Transgender in the United States? Los Angeles, CA: The Williams Institute; 2016.