Girls Who Identify Themselves as Highly Feminine Are More Likely to Engage in Activities With a High Risk for Cancer

A study led by researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health has found that youth who conform most strongly to gender stereotypes of masculinity and femininity are more likely than their peers to engage in behaviors that increase the risk of cancer.

The study found that girls identified as having strong feminine traits were found to use tanning booths more frequently than other girls and were more likely to be physically inactive. Boys who exhibited masculine traits, were more likely than their peers to chew tobacco or to smoke cigars than other boys.

The research examined responses to surveys by more than 9,000 adolescents. The participants were asked questions on gender expression and how they viewed themselves. They were also asked about their behaviors regarding several activities associated with a high risk of cancer.

RobertsAndreaLead author Andrea Roberts, a research associate in the department of social and behavior sciences at the Harvard School of Public Health, stated, “Our findings indicate that socially constructed ideas of masculinity and femininity heavily influence teens’ behaviors and put them at increased risk of cancer. Although there is nothing inherently masculine about chewing tobacco, or inherently feminine about using a tanning booth, these industries have convinced some teens that these behaviors are a way to express their masculinity or femininity.”

The research, “Masculine Boys, Feminine Girls, and Cancer Risk Behaviors: An 11-Year Longitudinal Study,” was published on the website of the Journal of Adolescent Health. It may be accessed here.

Filed Under: Research/Study


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