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At our National Cancer Information Center trained Cancer Information Specialists can answer questions 24 hours a day, every day of the year to empower you with accurate, up-to-date information to help you make educated health decisions. We connect patients, caregivers, and family members with valuable services and resources.
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The exact cause of most vaginal cancers is not known. But scientists have found that it is linked to a number of conditions described in Risk Factors for Vaginal Cancer Research is being done to learn more about how these risk factors cause cells of the vagina to become cancer.
Research has shown that normal cells make substances called tumor suppressor geneproducts to keep from growing too rapidly and becoming cancers. High-risk HPV (human papillomavirus) types (like 16 and 18) produce 2 proteins (E6 and E7) that can change the way known tumor suppressor gene products work.
Women exposed to diethylstilbestrol (DES) as a fetus (that is, their mothers took DES during pregnancy) are at increased risk for developing clear cell carcinoma. DES also increases the likelihood of vaginal adenosis (gland-type cells in the vaginal lining rather than the usual squamous cells). Most women with vaginal adenosis never develop vaginal clear cell carcinoma. Still, those with a rare type of adenosis called atypical tuboendometrial adenosis do have a higher risk of developing this cancer.