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5 Risk Factors That Could Increase the Chances of Vaginal Cancer in Women

5 Risk Factors That Could Increase the Chances of Vaginal Cancer in Women

From smoking to hormones your mother had taken to prevent miscarriage when she was carrying you, there could be many factors that can increase the risk of cancer.

In a female body, the vagina is the canal that leads from the opening of the uterus or cervix to the outside of the body. Also called the birth canal, during childbirth, the baby passes through the vagina and out of the woman's body. When there is a formation of malignant (cancer) cells in the vagina, it is called vaginal cancer. There are different types of vaginal cancer that can affect women. The most common type is vaginal squamous cell carcinoma, which begins in the thin, flat cells (squamous cells) which form the lining of the surface of the vagina, according to Mayo Clinic.

There are many symptoms that accompany vaginal cancer, including abnormal bleeding unrelated to the menstrual cycle or after sexual intercourse, pain during sexual intercourse, pain in the pelvic area, pain or bleeding when urinating or having bowel movements, according to Columbia University, Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center.

There are certain factors that increase the risk of cancer for women. Although, it doesn't mean that everyone who is exposed to these risk factors will get cancer. Here are six risk factors of vaginal cancer that all women need to be wary of:

1. Diethylstilbestrol (DES)

DES was a hormone drug given to women between 1940 and 1971 to prevent miscarriage. So, the women whose mothers took the hormone when they were pregnant are at a higher risk of developing clear-cell adenocarcinoma of the vagina or cervix. Among 1,000 daughters of mothers who took DES, at least one gets affected. The cancer is more likely to appear in the vagina than the cervix. The average age when they were diagnosed is 19 years. Doctors don't know how long a woman stays at risk, according to the American Cancer Society.



 

2. Human papillomavirus (HPV)

These are a large group of related viruses. "Each virus in the group is given a number, which is called an HPV type," according to the American Cancer Society. Some HPV types are associated with cervical cancer and cancer of the vulva. It is also found in most cases of vaginal cancer. These are high-risk types of HPV and include HPV 16 and HPV 18, as well as others. They may not lead to any symptoms until pre-cancerous changes or cancer develops. There are vaccines for some types of HPV.

Source: Getty Images

3. Increasing age

There is no prevention for increasing age except staying healthy as much as possible. Growing older puts women at a higher risk of vaginal cancer. Almost half of the women with vaginal cancer are above the age of 60 and squamous cell carcinoma most often occurs in women between 50 and 70 years old, according to Cancer.net.

Source: Getty Images

4. Vaginal adenosis

Women who were exposed to DES during their mothers' pregnancy have a higher chance of this. The vagina is normally lined by flat cells called squamous cells and for almost 40% women who have periods, the vagina may have one or more areas lined by glandular cells. They look similar to those in the glands of the cervix, the lining of the body of the uterus (the endometrium), and the lining of the fallopian tubes. The areas that have gland cells are called adenosis. If you have adenosis, it increases the risk of developing clear cell carcinoma, however, this is a rare kind of cancer.

Source: Getty Images

5. Smoking tobacco

Smoking tobacco increases the risk of developing many kinds of cancer, including vaginal cancer, as per University of Rochester, Medical Center. Women who have vaginal cancer also face an increased risk of getting lung cancer, which is primarily linked to tobacco use. Not just that, smoking is also connected to 1200 cases of malignant cervical cancer and nearly 5000 miscarriages every year in the UK, says British Medical Association (BMA). It also affects male and female fertility.

Source: Getty Images

References:

https://www.cancer.net/cancer-types/vaginal-cancer/risk-factors-and-prevention

https://www.cancer.org/cancer/vaginal-cancer/causes-risks-prevention/risk-factors.html

https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?contenttypeid=34&contentid=19527-1

https://cancer.columbia.edu/gynecologic-cancers/vaginal-cancer-risk-factors

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/vaginal-cancer/symptoms-causes/syc-20352447

https://www.health.harvard.edu/a_to_z/vaginal-cancer-a-to-z

https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(04)15634-1/fulltext

Disclaimer : This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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