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Womens Health Issues. 2004 Mar-Apr;14(2):60-8.

Comparing breast cancer risk between lesbians and their heterosexual sisters.

Author information

1
Institute for Health & Aging, School of Nursing, University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, California, USA. sdibble@itsa.ucsf.edu

Abstract

PURPOSE:

The purpose of this study was to explore the similarities and differences between lesbians and their heterosexual sisters in the established risks for developing breast cancer.

METHODS:

The design for this study was a matched (lesbian with heterosexual sister) cross-sectional, mail-back, anonymous survey. We distributed the surveys throughout the state of California to English-speaking women who identified themselves as lesbians, age 40 and older, and their sisters. Using the modified Gail Breast Cancer Risk model as well as other well-established factors associated with the development of breast cancer, we compared the breast cancer risk potential for 324 sister pairs (N = 648). Data were analyzed using paired t-tests, analysis of covariance (ANCOVA), McNemar's chi(2), or the Bowker statistic, as appropriate for the level of data.

MAIN FINDINGS:

The lesbians had significantly higher 5-year (p <.0001) and lifetime (p =.001) risk for developing breast cancer. The reasons for lesbians' predicted rate of breast cancer were most likely their higher scores on all pregnancy-related variables and the relatively high number of breast biopsies they reported. The lesbians had used birth control pills less (p <. 0001), had significantly fewer pregnancies (p <.0001), children (p <.0001), abortions (p <.0001), and miscarriages (p <.0001) as well as significantly more breast biopsies (p =.02) than did their heterosexual sisters.

CONCLUSIONS:

A lesbian who comes out to her clinician is relying on the clinician to be informed and be open to discuss her life. When a lesbian has a lump or a suspicious mammogram, she needs her clinician to advocate for her within the health care system because she is at higher risk for having cancer than a heterosexual woman.

PMID:
15120415
DOI:
10.1016/j.whi.2004.03.004
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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