NPR
Saturday, June 9, 2012
Science Health

Panel Discusses LGBT Health Problems

Public health experts from the University of Pittsburgh met in Oakland Wednesday to discuss health problems facing gays, lesbians, and other sexual minorities.

Public health experts from the University of Pittsburgh met in Oakland Wednesday to discuss health problems facing gays, lesbians, and other sexual minorities.

According to Pitt’s Center for LGBT Health, sexual minorities are often more likely to develop certain cancers than heterosexuals. For example, Pitt assistant professor of psychiatry Dr. Tom Mills said lesbians haven't been proven to have higher rates of breast cancer, but that's probably the case.

"Lesbians have higher risk factors for breast cancer: fewer full-term pregnancies, fewer mammograms, increased obesity," said Dr. Mills.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender populations also tend to have higher rates of depression, suicide, and weight problems, according to Dr. Mills.

"There is enormous pressure in gay male communities to have a perfect body," said Dr. Mills. "There are greatly increased rates of bulimia and anorexia nervosa over heterosexual men, probably ten times as much."

Sexually transmitted diseases continue to plague the LGBT community as well, especially HIV/AIDS and syphilis.

Pitt epidemiology professor Dr. Nina Markovic said research on LGBT health is in short supply. Dr. Markovic said government funding for LGBT health studies had been picking up steam until President George W. Bush was elected.

"And then there was a change in the administration, and there was a scouring of NIH [National Institutes of Health] abstracts, research abstracts, and anybody who had certain words on their abstracts were put on a blacklist," said Dr. Markovic. "We kind of put the brakes on some L,G,B, and T research."

However, Dr. Markovic said the Obama administration has restored some LGBT research funding. She said scientists are also rallying around the subject, and she added the Pitt Center for LGBT Health is the first of its kind in the world.

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