Factors that may increase your risk of vaginal cancer include:

  • Increasing age. Your risk of vaginal cancer increases as you age. Most women who are diagnosed with vaginal cancer are older than 60 years of age.
  • Atypical cells in the vagina called vaginal intraepithelial neoplasia. Women with vaginal intraepithelial neoplasia (VAIN) have an increased risk of vaginal cancer.

    In women with VAIN, cells in the vagina appear different from normal cells, but not different enough to be considered cancer. A small number of women with VAIN will eventually develop vaginal cancer, though doctors aren't sure what causes some cases to develop into cancer and others to remain benign.

    VAIN is caused by the sexually transmitted human papillomavirus (HPV), which can cause cervical, vaginal and vulvar cancers, among others. Vaccines that prevent some types of HPV infection are available.

  • Exposure to miscarriage prevention drug. Women whose mothers took a drug called diethylstilbestrol (DES) while pregnant in the 1950s have an increased risk of a certain type of vaginal cancer called clear cell adenocarcinoma.

Other risk factors that have been linked to an increased risk of vaginal cancer include:

  • Multiple sexual partners
  • Early age at first intercourse
  • Smoking
  • HIV infection
Apr. 27, 2013