Cancer-related risk indicators and preventive screening behaviors among lesbians and bisexual women

Am J Public Health. 2001 Apr;91(4):591-7. doi: 10.2105/ajph.91.4.591.


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.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Bisexuality / psychology*
  • Data Collection
  • Female
  • Health Behavior*
  • Health Services Accessibility
  • Homosexuality, Female / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Mammography / statistics & numerical data
  • Mass Screening / statistics & numerical data*
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Risk Factors
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Vaginal Smears / statistics & numerical data