Mental Health Outcomes in Adolescent and Young Adult Female Cancer Survivors of a Sexual Minority

Milli J. Desai, Rebecca S. Gold, Chelsea K. Jones, Hena Din, Andrew C. Dietz, Ksenya Shliakhtsitsava, Maria Elena Martinez, Florin Vaida, Hui Chun Irene Su

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Purpose: Sexual minority (SM) individuals experience higher rates of anxiety and depression. Previous research on mental health disparities for SM cancer survivors has largely focused on adult survivors; however, studies are limited in the adolescent and young adult (AYA) population. This study's objective is to compare depression and anxiety symptoms between AYA, female cancer survivors who identify as an SM and those who identify as heterosexual. Methods: A cross-sectional analysis of 1025 AYA survivors aged 18-40 years (2015-2017) was performed. Patients self-reported SM identification and depression and anxiety symptoms, as measured by the Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ8) and Generalized Anxiety Disorder Scale (GAD7), respectively. Multivariable logistic regression tested associations between SM identification and depression and anxiety. Results: Sixty-four participants (6%) identified as an SM. In adjusted analyses, SM participants had 1.88 higher odds of anxiety (odds ratio [OR] 1.88, confidence interval [95% CI] 1.05-3.35, p = 0.033) compared with heterosexual participants. SM participants did not have significantly higher odds of depression (OR 1.36, CI 0.75-2.47, p = 0.31). More social support was significantly associated with lower odds of depression (OR 0.91, CI 0.89-0.93, p < 0.001) and anxiety (OR 0.93, CI 0.91-0.94, p < 0.001). Conclusions: AYA cancer survivors identifying as an SM had nearly twice the odds of anxiety, with social support that is protective for both anxiety and depression. While mental health screening is recommended throughout the cancer care continuum, these data support the need for reliable screening, clinician awareness of increased vulnerability in the AYA, SM survivor population, and clinician training on culturally competent care and generation of evidence-based interventions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)148-155
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Adolescent and Young Adult Oncology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1 2021


  • anxiety
  • depression
  • mental health
  • sexual minority
  • survivorship

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Oncology


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