Why Lung Cancer Awareness Month is Especially Important for LGBTQ+ Communities

by Janelle Hom

November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month, a time where the American Lung Association, among other organizations, works to raise awareness for lung cancer, which is the number one cancer killer of both men and women in the U.S.

For LGBTQ+ communities, it is more important than ever to raise awareness about lung cancer. According to the National LGBT Cancer Network, “LGBT communities are disproportionately affected by cancer.” There are many reasons why these communities are more affected, but one is that cigarette smoking is more prevalent in lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) persons. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) states that 20.5% of LGB adults smoke cigarettes compared to 15.3% of straight adults. While anyone with lungs can get lung cancer, smoking is the main cause of small cell and non-small cell lung cancer, contributing to 80% and 90% of lung cancer deaths in women and men, respectively.

One reason that lung cancer is so deadly is that most cases are diagnosed at a later stage after the disease has spread. Thankfully, there is a lung cancer screening available for high-risk individuals that helps catch lung cancer early when it is most treatable. If you are 55-80 years old, have a 30 pack-year history of smoking (1 pack a day for 30 years, 2 packs a day for 15 years, and so on), and are a current smoker, or have quit within the past 15 years, you’re considered at high risk and qualify for lung cancer screening.

While this simple screening test has been available since 2015, very few people are getting screened. Only 2.4% of those eligible in Florida have been screened, according to the 2019 State of Lung Cancer report.

During Lung Cancer Awareness Month, we encourage everyone to learn more about lung cancer and take our 2-minute quiz to determine if you are at high risk at SavedbytheScan.org.

More information about lung cancer, lung cancer screening, and resources to quit smoking is available at Lung.org.

Janelle Hom is the Executive Director of the American Lung Association in Florida. She has been with The American Lung Association since May 2008 serving in several capacities including fundraising, volunteer management, and community activism. Now serving ten counties throughout Central Florida, Janelle works with over 900 active volunteers and has assisted in raising more than $1,000,000 to date toward education, advocacy, and research for lung disease.

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