News Release

Cervical cancer screening happens less often among sexual minority individuals

Study finds that Hispanic sexual minority persons may face the most barriers to screening

Peer-Reviewed Publication


A recent database analysis reveals that in recent years, sexual minority individuals—those whose sexual orientation differs from societal normswere less likely to have undergone cervical cancer screening tests than heterosexual counterparts, with Hispanic sexual minority individuals having the lowest screening rates. The findings are published by Wiley online in CANCER, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society.

Regular Pap tests are recommended for those with a cervix who are aged 21 to 65 years old to detect cervical cancer at premalignant or early stages, when treatments are most effective. Numerous barriers to cervical cancer screening exist, and for sexual minority people, these may include inadequate patient-provider communication, mistrust in medical providers, fear of discrimination in the clinic, and the belief that Pap testing is not beneficial.

Investigators analyzed 2015–2018 data from the National Health Interview Survey—an interview-based program that collects information from U.S. households on a broad range of health topics—to examine cervical cancer screening disparities related to individuals’ self-defined sexual minority status and race/ethnicity.

The team found that sexual minority individuals had 46% lower odds of ever undergoing Pap testing compared with heterosexual persons. When the intersection of sexual orientation and race/ethnicity was considered, white sexual minority participants and Hispanic sexual minority participants had reduced odds of ever undergoing Pap testing compared with white heterosexual participants. No significant differences were observed between white heterosexual participants and participants of Black sexual minority or Hispanic heterosexual identities.

“This research highlights the need to examine disparities at the intersection of multiple societally constructed identities. More work is needed to alleviate disparities, and future work should incorporate measures of systemic discrimination,” said lead author Ashley E. Stenzel, PhD, of Allina Health, a not-for-profit health care system based in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

An accompanying editorial notes that campaigns addressing patient knowledge and provider communication may help to improve screening rates, and that cultural adaptation of interventions is needed to reduce existing disparities.

Additional Information

NOTE: The information contained in this release is protected by copyright. Please include journal attribution in all coverage. A free abstract of this article will be available via the Cancer News Room upon online publication. For more information or to obtain a PDF of any study, please contact:

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Full Citations:

“The intersection of sexual orientation with race and ethnicity in cervical cancer screening.” Ashley E. Stenzel, Gabriela Bustamante, Courtney A. Sarkin, Katherine Harripersaud, Patricia Jewett, Deanna Teoh, and Rachel I. Vogel. CANCER; Published Online: May 16, 2022 (DOI: 10.1002/cncr.34213)

URL Upon Publication

“Intersecting identities and cancer screening.” Ana I. Tergas. CANCER; Published Online: May 16, 2022 (DOI: 10.1002/cncr.34212)

URL Upon Publication

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About the Journal
CANCER is a peer-reviewed publication of the American Cancer Society integrating scientific information from worldwide sources for all oncologic specialties. The objective of CANCER is to provide an interdisciplinary forum for the exchange of information among oncologic disciplines concerned with the etiology, course, and treatment of human cancer. CANCER is published on behalf of the American Cancer Society by Wiley and can be accessed online.

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