Cancer in Transgender People: Evidence and Methodological Considerations

Epidemiol Rev. 2017 Jan 1;39(1):93-107. doi: 10.1093/epirev/mxw003.


Transgender people comprise a diverse group of individuals whose gender identity or expression differs from that originally assigned to them at birth. Some, but not all, transgender people elect to undergo medical gender affirmation, which may include therapy with cross-sex hormones and/or surgical change of the genitalia and other sex characteristics. As cross-sex hormones administered for the purposes of gender affirmation may be delivered at high doses and over a period of decades, the carcinogenicity of hormonal therapy in transgender people is an area of considerable concern. In addition, concerns about cancer risk in transgender patients have been linked to sexually transmitted infections, increased exposure to well-known risk factors such as smoking and alcohol use, and the lack of adequate access to screening. Several publications have identified cancer as an important priority in transgender health research and called for large-scale studies. The goals of this article are to summarize the evidence on factors that may differentially affect cancer risk in transgender people, assess the relevant cancer surveillance and epidemiologic data available to date, and offer an overview of possible methodological considerations for future studies investigating cancer incidence and mortality in this population.

Keywords: cancer; hormones; transgender.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Alcohol Drinking / epidemiology*
  • Early Detection of Cancer / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Gonadal Steroid Hormones / therapeutic use*
  • Health Services Accessibility / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Risk Factors
  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Smoking / epidemiology*
  • Transgender Persons / statistics & numerical data*


  • Gonadal Steroid Hormones