An ecological analysis of colorectal cancer incidence and mortality: differences by sexual orientation

BMC Cancer. 2011 Sep 21;11:400. doi: 10.1186/1471-2407-11-400.


Background: Some have suggested gays and lesbians may carry a greater burden of colorectal cancer. To date, individual sexual orientation data are not available in cancer surveillance registries. This prevents an assessment of differences in colorectal cancer incidence and mortality by sexual orientation, using individual-level data.

Methods: We use an ecological approach to examine differences in colorectal cancer incidence and mortality by county-level sexual orientation data. From the Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) Program we obtain population-based surveillance data on colorectal cancer incidence and mortality from 1996 to 2004. We use Census 2000 data on same-sex partnered households, a proxy of sexual orientation, to derive county-level sexual orientation data. Using multiple regression models, we examined the county-level association of sexual minority density with colorectal cancer incidence and mortality.

Results: After controlling for race and SES, we identify a significant positive association between greater density of sexual minority men and women and colorectal cancer incidence. With respect to colorectal cancer mortality, we identify a positive association with density of sexual minority men, but not women.

Conclusions: In the absence of surveillance data on sexual minority individuals, ecological analyses provide estimates of associations at the aggregate level, thereby providing crucial information for follow-up studies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / mortality
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Population Surveillance*
  • SEER Program
  • Sexual Behavior*
  • United States / epidemiology
  • United States / ethnology
  • Young Adult