Risk factors for ovarian cancer: lesbian and heterosexual women

Oncol Nurs Forum. 2002 Jan-Feb;29(1):E1-7. doi: 10.1188/02.ONF.E1-E7.


Purpose/objectives: To compare the distribution of risk factors for developing ovarian cancer in lesbian and heterosexual women.

Design: Secondary analysis of a retrospective medical record review.

Setting: Urban health clinic with special outreach to lesbians.

Sample: Typical participant (N = 1,019) was 42.9 years old and white (70%). Most were without health insurance, and 99% were poor (< $15,780 annual income). The majority (58%, n = 586) described themselves as heterosexual; 42% (n = 433) said they were lesbian.

Methods: Data were collected from medical records and analyzed using analysis of covariance and logistic regression techniques.

Main research variables: Ovarian cancer risk factors (parity, exogenous hormone use, smoking, body mass index [BMI], and tubal ligation/hysterectomy).

Findings: Lesbians had a higher BMI; heterosexual women had higher rates of current smoking and a higher incidence of the protective factors of pregnancy, children, miscarriages, abortions, and use of birth control pills.

Conclusions: The results of this study indicate that lesbians may have an increased risk for developing ovarian cancer. A study designed specifically to explore the risk factors of lesbian and heterosexual women for developing ovarian cancer must be undertaken to confirm these findings.

Implications for nursing practice: Differences in risk levels may exist for lesbians; therefore, healthcare providers must become comfortable asking questions about sexual orientation and behavior.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Body Mass Index
  • Contraceptives, Oral, Hormonal / adverse effects
  • Female
  • Heterosexuality* / statistics & numerical data*
  • Homosexuality, Female* / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Hysterectomy / adverse effects
  • Logistic Models
  • Middle Aged
  • Oncology Nursing
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / etiology*
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / nursing
  • Parity
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • San Francisco / epidemiology
  • Smoking / adverse effects
  • Smoking / epidemiology
  • Sterilization, Tubal / adverse effects


  • Contraceptives, Oral, Hormonal