Lesbians and Bisexual Women Have Special Health Concerns
During Pride Month, Shining a Light on Health Risks and Special Needs of the LGBQT Population
In the United States, 1.1% and 3.5% of women identify as lesbian or bisexual, respectively. They come from every walk of life, and represent all racial, ethnic and socioeconomic groups.
There are no physiological differences between lesbians and heterosexual women. However, they may have special health concerns and should make sure that they receive regular healthcare, including recommended screenings, from a provider who is sensitive to their specific needs and risk factors.
Studies have shown a higher incidence of tobacco use, alcohol use and obesity among women who identify as lesbian and bisexual. These risk factors increase their likelihood of developing cardiovascular disease, diabetes and lung cancer. Other lifestyle factors, including a relatively low pregnancy rate, increased obesity and tobacco use and decreased use of oral contraceptives, may contribute to lesbians having a slightly increased risk of breast and ovarian cancer.
Approximately 70% of lesbians have also been sexually active with men. Lesbians and bisexual women therefore should be screened for sexually transmitted diseases, some of which can be transmitted between lesbians.
All women, regardless of sexual orientation, should undergo regular recommended screenings. Depending upon their age and risk factors, these might include mammography, colonoscopy, Pap tests, vaccination for HPV prevention and osteoporosis screening.
Some women who identify as lesbian or bisexual face stigma and discrimination which can lead to an increase in depression, alcohol and substance abuse.
It is essential for all women, but especially those in the LGBQT community, to develop a relationship with a physician who is committed to a upholding a non-discrimination policy in their practice. In our practice, we appreciate diversity and do not discriminate based on race, age, religion, disability, marital status, sexual orientation or sexual identity.