Gay men may face a disproportionately high risk of cancer – but not for the reason you think.

According to a study published this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association Dermatology, rates of skin cancer are on the rise among gay and bisexual men.

Researchers found that the risk for gay and bi men was disproportionately high compared to their straight counterparts – and it could be linked to the increased prevalence of indoor tanning.

The study collected data from 186,575 people across California and the US – including 78,487 heterosexual men and 3,083 gay and bisexual men – and found the risk of developing skin cancer was far higher for gay men.

Nationwide, 6.7% of gay and bi men developed skin cancer over a lifetime, compared to 3.2% of straight men. This was coupled with the fact that 5.1% of gay and bi men had visited indoor tanning salons in the past year – compared to just 1.6% of straight men.

However, there’s good news for lesbians and bi women – they have nearly the same risks as straight men, with just 1.6% developing skin cancer.

The study authors note: “We report an increased odds of skin cancer among sexual minority men and more frequent indoor tanning, a known, preventable cause of skin cancer.

“Targeted prevention efforts focused on the dangers of indoor tanning and early detection of skin cancer may help reduce the burden of skin cancer among sexual minority men.”

The study’s co-author Dr Sarah Arron, associate dermatology professor at the University of California San Francisco, told Newsweek: “We were shocked to find the skin cancer incidence has drastically increased among these men.

“It’s well known that indoor salons have centered on young women and the culture around indoor tanning has centered on college-age women. But no one has thought to look and target gay and bisexual men to reduce that behaviour.”