Gay and bisexual woman are found to have several increased health risks over heterosexual women. Heart disease is the #1 killer of all women, but lesbians and bisexual women have a higher rate of obesity, smoking and stress, which are the primary risk factors for heart disease. In addition, lesbian women appear to be at a higher risk for uterine, breast, cervical, endometrial and ovarian cancers. Because gay women are less likely than heterosexual women to have had a full-term pregnancy, they are deprived of the natural hormones released during pregnancy and breastfeeding. These hormones are thought to protect against many forms of female cancers.
Lesbian and bisexual women are also less likely to visit a doctor for routine health screenings, such a pap smear or mammogram, which can prevent or detect cervical and breast cancers. In addition, gay woman are at just as much risk as heterosexual woman at contracting sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). “for gay women, STDs can be transmitted through skin-to-skin contact, mucosa (mouth to vaginal) contact, vaginal fluid, sharing of sex toys and contact with menstrual blood. In fact, high rates of bacterial vaginosis and hepatitis were noted in lesbian women.”
Bacterial vaginosis (BV) develops when there is an imbalance of “good” and “bad” vaginal bacteria, and is most common in women of childbearing age. BV seems to be more common among women who are sexually active, and is most commonly associated with an abnormal white or milky vaginal discharge and an unpleasant odor.
As with many health problems, the sooner the issue is detected, the more likely it is that a woman will be successfully treated for the disease. “Whether you are a lesbian, or a heterosexual woman, it’s important to see your doctor if your health changes. It’s also imperative to get your yearly gynecologic exam.” Be sure to speak with your Women’s Health and Menopause Center physician about your health risk factors.