Vaginal cancer is uncommon, making up just 1–2% of malignancies of the female genital tract. However, a person’s risk of developing vaginal cancer appears to increase with age.

The above statistic comes from the American Cancer Society (ACS).

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Primary vaginal cancer starts in the cells of the vagina, which is the muscular canal that connects the uterus to the outside of the body.

There are several different types of vaginal cancer, including squamous cell carcinoma, adenocarcinoma, and sarcoma.

The most common type of vaginal cancer is squamous cell carcinoma. This begins in the thin, flat cells that line the surface of the vagina.

Adenocarcinoma, which starts in glandular cells in the lining of the vagina, is less common. A melanoma is another rare form of cancer that starts in the cells that give the skin its color, but they also form in the vagina or other organs. Fewer than three of every 100 cases of vaginal cancer are melanomas.

Sarcoma, which starts in the muscle or connective tissue of the vagina, is the rarest type.

Other types of cancer may spread to the vagina. This is called vaginal metastasis, which is not the same as primary vaginal cancer.

This article will discuss how common vaginal cancer is according to age and race.

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Vaginal cancer is a rare type of cancer, accounting for 1–2% of all gynecologic cancers.

In 2022, there were an estimated 8,870 new cases and 1,630 deaths due to vaginal and other female genital cancers in the United States.

A 2022 study found that the incidence of vaginal cancer has been decreasing in recent years. This may be a result of an increased use of Pap smear tests and the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, which can prevent some types of vaginal cancer.

However, it is important to note that early detection and timely treatment are key to improving outcomes for people with vaginal cancer.

The incidence of vaginal cancer increases with age, with the median age of diagnosis being 67 years.

The following numbers, which come from data from 2019, show the age-based vaginal cancer rate per 100,000 people:

Age (years)Prevalence

Vaginal cancer is more common in non-Hispanic Black people than in people of other races, although the overall incidence is low for all racial and ethnic groups.

The following numbers, which derive from data from 2019, show the race-based vaginal cancer rate per 100,000 people:

Hispanic, any race0.64
non-Hispanic American Indian or Alaska Native0.00
non-Hispanic Asian/Pacific Islander0.37
non-Hispanic Black0.87
non-Hispanic white0.64

The reasons for these disparities are complex and multifactorial. Some possible factors that may contribute to health disparities in vaginal cancer include differences in:

  • access to healthcare
  • socioeconomic status
  • exposure to risk factors such as smoking and HPV infection
  • genetic and biological factors

For example, Black people are more likely to receive a diagnosis of advanced-stage vaginal cancer and have a higher mortality rate than white people. This may be due to differences in access to timely and high quality healthcare.

Addressing these disparities requires a multifaceted approach that addresses both individual and systemic factors that contribute to health inequities.

A risk factor is something that affects a person’s likelihood of developing a condition.

It is important to remember that having one or more risk factors does not mean that a person will definitely develop the condition.

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Doctors do not know the exact cause of vaginal cancer. However, several risk factors can increase a person’s risk of developing the condition. These include:

  • Age: Doctors most commonly diagnose vaginal cancer in people aged 70 and over.
  • HPV infection: Certain types of HPV can increase the risk of vaginal cancer.
  • Smoking: People who smoke are more likely to develop vaginal cancer.
  • History of cervical cancer: People with cervical cancer or atypical Pap tests have an increased risk of vaginal cancer.

Symptoms of vaginal cancer can include:

  • atypical vaginal bleeding
  • pain during intercourse
  • vaginal discharge, and a lump or mass in the vagina

However, these symptoms can also be due to other conditions. It is important to contact a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis.

Vaginal cancer is rare and appears to account for less than 2% of malignancies of the female genital tract.

A person’s risk of developing vaginal cancer seems to increase with age. Other risk factors include having HPV, smoking, and having a history of cervical cancer.

However, due to the increase in Pap smears and HPV vaccines, the incidence of vaginal cancer appears to be decreasing.