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Lesbians at an Increased Risk for One Type of Cancer, Says Study

Tim Boyer's picture

In a recent study presented at the 11th Annual American Association for Cancer Research International Conference on Frontiers in Cancer Prevention Research, researchers reveal that approximately 40% of lesbians surveyed in one study shows that they are not being tested for cervical cancer. This is in light of recent news and awareness that the majority of women in the U.S have been infected with the human papillomavirus (HPV), which significantly increases the risk of developing cervical cancer.

According to a press release issued by the American Association for Cancer Research, “This study highlights an often-overlooked cancer disparity,” says the study’s author, J. Kathleen Tracy, Ph.D., an associate professor of epidemiology and public health at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and a researcher at the University of Maryland Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Cancer Center. “We know that HPV can be transmitted during same-sex sexual activity, so lesbians are at risk of developing cervical cancer. If these women aren’t screened, they are at increased risk of getting this type of cancer by missing opportunities to identify precursor cervical abnormalities that can be treated.”

The results of the study are from a 20120-2011 standardized internet survey sent to 3,000 women self-identified as having a lesbian sexual orientation. Approximately one-third of those surveyed responded revealing that 38% were not being screened for cervical cancer on a regular basis. The researchers concluded from the results that women identified as lesbian are at an increased risk of developing cervical cancer because they are not seeking Pap smear tests that can identify the presence of abnormal appearing cervical cells.

When surveyed about their reasons why they were not having Pap smear tests done on a regular basis, the data showed that two most common reasons given by the women surveyed were due to:

(1) Not having a physician referral (17.5%)
(2) Not having a physician (17.3%)

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“Physician recommendation appeared to be a potent determinant of regular screening behavior,” Dr. Tracy says. “Routine screeners perceived more benefits and fewer barriers to screening, and knew that not having a Pap test put them at increased risk for cervical cancer, than did women who were not screened.

“Cervical cancer is very treatable if detected early through routine screening with Pap tests,” states E. Albert Reece, M.D., Ph.D., M.B.A., vice president for medical affairs at the University of Maryland. “Dr. Tracy’s research shows that a significant percentage of the lesbian population is not being screened as recommended. We need to eliminate barriers to screening for this subset of women and to educate them on the benefits.”

The researchers state that one intervention to remedy the numbers is for improved physician-patient communication to ensure that all women are getting the message of the importance of having cervical cancer and HPV testing.

For information about the signs and symptoms to be aware of for possible cervical cancer, follow this link to an Emaxhealth article titled “Fight cervical cancer through prevention and early detection.”

Image Source: Courtesy of Wikipedia

Reference: American Association for Cancer Research—“Routine Screening for Cervical Cancer Low Among Lesbian Community”