By Sandra Rose  | 

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Researchers say more lesbians and bisexual women are diagnosed with breast cancer than heterosexual women. According to the National LGBT Cancer Network, lesbians, bisexuals and women who have sex with women are at greater risk for cancer due to certain stereotypical behaviors, stigma, and socioeconomic status.

Lesbian and heterosexual women are not different physiologically or genetically. But says more lesbians and bisexual women are diagnosed with certain cancers because of behaviors that are prevalent among the lesbian community and "the stress and stigma of living in a society where homophobia and discrimination continue to impact."

According to The National LGBT Cancer Network, these behaviors include:

Smoking - according to some studies, more lesbians smoke regular tobacco cigarettes than heterosexual women

Alcohol consumption - lesbians as a group consume more alcohol, and are heavy regular drinkers, compared to heterosexual women, according to researchers

Bodyweight - 60% of lesbians are, on average, obese or tend to weigh more than other women of the same age and height

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Pregnancy and breastfeeding - lesbians can't breed with other women, therefore they don't lactate or breastfeed as often as heterosexual women. Breastfeeding has been shown to reduce breast cancer risk. Even bisexual women who can breed (naturally or via IVF) are less likely to become pregnant and have children before they are 30 years old. Research shows getting pregnant before age 30 reduces cancer risk.

Cancer screening

Studies have consistently shown that a lower percentage of lesbians have mammograms, pap smears and colonoscopies compared to other women.

Socioeconomic status

On average, lesbians tend to earn lower income than other women. As a result, lesbians are less likely to have insurance coverage

Fear of being shunned in healthcare settings

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Some lesbians avoid getting Pap smears because of the fear of being shunned or ill-treated by healthcare staff when advised that they are lesbians. Gold star lesbians (virgins) may not be comfortable being penetrated by the fearsome looking speculum device that doctors use to obtain samples.

The result is that a higher percentage of lesbians are diagnosed with cancer at later stages of the disease - when it is much harder to treat.

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