Risk Factors for Ovarian Cancer: Lesbian and Heterosexual Women

Suzanne L. Dibble

Stephanie A. Roberts

Patricia A. Robertson

Steven M. Paul

ONF 2002, 29(1), E1-E7. DOI: 10.1188/02.ONF.E1-E7

Purpose/Objectives: To compare the distribution of risk factors for developing ovarian cancer in lesbian and heterosexual women.

Design: Secondary analysis of a retrospective medical record review.

Setting: Urban health clinic with special outreach to lesbians.

Sample: Typical participant (N = 1,019) was 42.9 years old and white (70%). Most were without health insurance, and 99% were poor (< $15,780 annual income). The majority (58%, n = 586) described themselves as heterosexual; 42% (n = 433) said they were lesbian.

Methods: Data were collected from medical records and analyzed using analysis of covariance and logistic regression techniques.

Main Research Variables: Ovarian cancer risk factors (parity, exogenous hormone use, smoking, body mass index [BMI], and tubal ligation/hysterectomy).

Findings: Lesbians had a higher BMI; heterosexual women had higher rates of current smoking and a higher incidence of the protective factors of pregnancy, children, miscarriages, abortions, and use of birth control pills.

Conclusions: The results of this study indicate that lesbians may have an increased risk for developing ovarian cancer. A study designed specifically to explore the risk factors of lesbian and heterosexual women for developing ovarian cancer must be undertaken to confirm these findings.

Implications for Nursing Practice: Differences in risk levels may exist for lesbians; therefore, healthcare providers must become comfortable asking questions about sexual orientation and behavior.

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