Lesbian Health Risks - Cervical Smears - Pap Smears For Lesbians - Gay Health

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Gay Health - Lesbians are not immune to cervical cancer
Sexual preference is no shield against HPV.

Many lesbians believe that their sexual preference leaves them less vulnerable to sexually transmitted diseases, so they don't bother with Pap smears.

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HPV Virus Linked to Cervical Cancer


Lesbians Need to Get Pap Smears

Sexual preference is no shield against cervical cancer
Researchers found that almost one in eight gay women were actively shedding the
human papilloma virus (HPV), implicated as a chief cause of cervical cancer

"This work supports our previous findings that HPV occurs in women who never had sex with
men, as well as in women who have had sex with men in their remote past," says lead
author Dr. Jeanne Marrazzo, at the University of Washington.

Marrazzo studied 248 women in the Seattle area who had sex with other women and found
that 13% of them tested positive for HPV. In addition, 4 % had precancerous changes on
their Pap test. Most of these abnormal Pap smears appeared in women who reported no
prior sex with men, or who last had sex with men more than a year before the test.

Women who have never had sex with men were less likely to have ever undergone a pelvic
examination, the study says. Those women get their first Pap smear at a later age and have
less frequent Pap smears than others.

The women cited a lack of medical insurance, unpleasant experiences during a previous
pap smear, and a belief that they did not need a pap smear because they were not sexually
active with men as reasons they did not have the procedure. 9 of the 250 women said that
a health care provider (usually a physician) had told them, they did not need a Pap smear
because they were not sexually active with men.

The findings appear in the June issue of the American Journal of Public Health.

"These women clearly have the perception because they were no longer having sex with men,
they don't believe they are at risk for STDs or the attendant problems, such as cervical cancer,"
Marrazzo says. "about 98% of cases of cervical cancer can be related to HPV."

The pap smear, which allows for the microscopic examination of a specially treated sample of
cervical cells, was introduced in the early 1940s and was in widespread use a decade later.

Regardless of that sexual history, every woman should have an annual pap smear
as part of a complete pelvic examination as soon as she becomes sexually active or turns 18.
Lesbians, in general, are less likely to get regular physical examinations of any kind because
of fear of discrimination, fear of being outed, or being treated poorly.

To learn more about HPV, visit the University of Iowa .

For More On Cancer Risks for Women Click Here


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