Young bisexual and lesbian women are at an increased risk of developing cervical cancer and are less likely to undergo Pap smears than straight women, finds study.
The findings about Pap tests suggest that young lesbian and bisexual women are not monitoring their sexual health as much as their heterosexual counterparts.
"These women report having sex at a younger age and with more people," said lead study author Brittany Charlton, a graduate student in epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health.
"That could certainly put them at risk. It's really important that they be screened," she added
Charlton and her colleagues examined the results of surveys done in 2005 of 4,224 females ages 17 to 25. Ninety-three percent were white; all but 9 percent had been sexually active.
Lesbians, who made up about 1 percent of the women surveyed, were less likely to have undergone a Pap test, which detects the presence of a sexually transmitted virus that can cause cervical cancer and other medical problems.
Twenty-two percent of bisexual women said they had a previous diagnosis of a sexually transmitted disease, in comparison with 11 percent of those who were heterosexual and 8 percent of lesbians.
Women who have sex with other women are at lower risk of getting sexually transmitted diseases than are women who have sex with men, although some of the diseases can spread between women.
Research suggests that about three-quarters of sexually active lesbian adolescents have had sex with men; the number is 96 percent among bisexuals.
So, why are bisexual and lesbian young women not undergoing Pap tests?
"Many may not believe they're at risk of catching a sexually transmitted infection or even needing to have a Pap smear," Charlton said.
She added that gay men, bisexuals and lesbians could feel uncomfortable talking to doctors about their sexual orientation and sex lives.
The study appears online in the Journal of Adolescent Health.