Objectives: This study examined whether lesbians are at increased risk for certain cancers as a result of an accumulation of behavioral risk factors and difficulties in accessing health care.
Methods: Prevalence estimates of behavioral risk factors (nulliparity, obesity, smoking, and alcohol use), cancer screening behaviors, and self-reported breast cancer histories derived from 7 independently conducted surveys of lesbians/bisexual women (n = 11,876) were compared with national estimates for women.
Results: In comparison with adjusted estimates for the US female population, lesbians/bisexual women exhibited greater prevalence rates of obesity, alcohol use, and tobacco use and lower rates of parity and birth control pill use. These women were also less likely to have health insurance coverage or to have had a recent pelvic examination or mammogram. Self-reported histories of breast cancer, however, did not differ from adjusted US female population estimates.
Conclusions: Lesbians and bisexual women differ from heterosexual women in patterns of health risk. These women would be expected to be at especially greater risk for chronic diseases linked to smoking and obesity.