Drinking Alcohol and Vaginal Cancer Risk

Drinking alcohol (wine, distilled spirits or beer) does not increase the risk of developing vaginal cancer. That's the conclusion of the National Cancer Institute, the American Society of Clinical Oncology, CancerHelp UK, the Mayo Clinic, and other leading medical organizations.

Risk factors for vaginal cancer include:

  • Age. Vaginal cancer usually develops after the age of 60.
  • Smoking.
  • Radiation therapy in the vaginal area.
  • Hysterectomy (removal of part or all of the uterus)
  • Infection with human papillomavirus (HPV)
  • Cervical cancer
  • Pessary (a device used to keep a sagging uterus in place) use
  • DES use by mother (diethylstilbestrol or DES is a drug often used by pregnant women between the late 1940s and 1971)

Symptoms of vaginal cancer include:

  • Bleeding or discharge not associated with menstruation
  • A lump in the vagina
  • Pain during sexual intercourse
  • Pain in the pelvis

Such symptoms may or may not indicate vaginal cancer. Therefore, a physician should be consulted to obtain a diagnosis.

The risk of developing vaginal cancer can be reduced in a number of ways:

  • Receiving a vaccine to prevent vaginal cancer among girls and women ages nine and 26
  • Not smoking
  • Not having sexual intercourse until late teens or older
  • Having regular Pap tests
  • Practicing safe sex
  • Not having sex with multiple partners
  • Not having sex with anyone who has had many partners

Drinking alcohol does not increase the risk of developing vaginal cancer but it is associated with better health and living longer than either abstaining from alcohol or abusing it.

Drinking in moderation has been described by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism as a woman consuming three alcoholic drinks on any day and an average of seven drinks each week.

A standard alcoholic drink is:

  • A 12-ounce can or bottle of regular beer
  • A 5-ounce glass of dinner wine
  • A shot (one and one-half ounces) of 80 proof liquor or spirits such as vodka, tequila, or rum either straight or in a mixed drink.

Standard drinks contain equivalent amounts of alcohol.

There is no evidence that any particular form of alcoholic beverage (beer, wine, or distilled spirits) confers greater health or longevity benefits than any other.

Note: This website does not made health or medical recommendations regarding drinking alcohol and vaginal cancer and none should be inferred.

Readings on Vaginal Cancer:

  • Aktas, M., et al. Concomitant radiotherapy and hyperthermia for primary carcinoma of the vagina: a cohort study. European Journal of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Biology, 2007, 133(1), 100-104.
  • Ayliffe, G.A. Viruses, specula, and vaginal cancer. Lancet, 1986, 2(8499), 158.
  • Benton, B.D. Stilbestrol and vaginal cancer. American Journal of Nursing, 1974, 74(5), 900-901.
  • Daling, J., et al. A population-based study of squamous cell vaginal cancer: HPV and cofactors. Gynecologic Oncology, 2002, 84(2), 263-270.
  • Daniels, T.B. Radiation for vaginal cancer: the Mayo Clinic experience. International Journal of Radiation Oncology, 2007, 69(3), Supp., S403.
  • Forsberg, J.G. Estrogen, vaginal cancer, and vaginal development. American jJournal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 1972, 113(1), 83-87.
  • Frumovitz, M., et al. Lymphatic mapping and sentinel lymph node detection in women with vaginal cancer. Gynecologic Oncology, 2008, 108(3), (2008), 478.
  • Greenwald, P., et al. Vaginal cancer after maternal treatment with synthetic estrogen. New England Journal of Medicine, 1971, 285(7), 390-392.
  • Guthrie, D., and Way, S. Immunotherapy of non-clinical vaginal cancer.
    Lancet, 1975, 2(7947), 1242-1243.
  • Jain, A., et al. How innocent is the vaginal pessary? Two cases of vaginal cancer associated with pessary use. Journal of Obstetrics & Gynaecology, 2006, 26(8), 829-830.
  • Lian, J. et al. Twenty-year review of radiotherapy for vaginal cancer: lan institutional experience. Gynecologic Oncology, 2008, 111(2), 298-306.
  • Merino, M.J. Vaginal cancer: the role of infectious and environmental factors. American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 1991, 165(4) Pt 2, 1255-1262.
  • Noller, K.L. Screening for vaginal cancer. New England Journal of Medicine, 1996, 335(21), 1599-600.
  • Parker, J.N.,and Parker, P.M. The Official Patient's Sourcebook on Vaginal Cancer. San Diego, CA: Icon Health Publications, 2002.
  • Samant, R., et al. Primary vaginal cancer treated; with concurrent chemoradiation using cis-platinum. International Journal of Radiation Oncology, Biology, Physics, 2007, 69(3), 746.
  • Schraub, S., et al. Cervical and vaginal cancer associated with pessary use. Cancer, 1992, 69(10), 2505-2509.
  • Shah, C.A., et al. Factors affecting risk of mortality in women with vaginal cancer. Obstetrics and Gynecology, 2009, 113(5), 1038-1045.
  • Smith, J.S., et al. Human papillomavirus type-distribution in vulvar and vaginal cancers and their associated precursors. Obstetrics and Gynecology, 2009, 113(4), 917-924.
  • Tabata, T., et al. Treatment failure in vaginal cancer. Gynecologic Oncology, 2002, 84(2), 309-314.
  • Van der Zee, J., et al. Hyperthermia to improve results in vaginal cancer. Radiotherapy and Oncology, 2008, 88(2), 286.
  • Weiss, K. Vaginal Cancer:an Iatrogenic Disease? Pittsburgh, PA: Know, Inc., 1976.
  • Wu, X., et al. Descriptive epidemiology of vaginal cancer incidence and survival by race, ethnicity, and age in the United States. Cancer, 2008, 113(10), Suppl: 2873-2882.

Internet Resources:

  • Vaginal Cancer Risk Factors and Prevention. http://www.cancer.net/patient/Cancer+Types/Vaginal+Cancer
  • Vaginal Cancer. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/treatment/vaginal/patient
  • Vaginal Cancer Risk Factors http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/vaginal-cancer/DS00812/DSECTION=risk-factors
  • Risks and Causes of Vaginal Cancer http://www.cancerhelp.org.uk/type/vaginal-cancer/about/risks-and-causes-of-vaginal-cancer
  • Am I at Risk for Vaginal Cancer? http://www.wcn.org/articles/types_of_cancer/vaginal/risk/index.html
  • What are the Causes and Risk Factors for Vaginal cancer? http://www.medicinenet.com/vaginal_cancer/article.htm
  • Vaginal Cancer http://www.webmd.com/cancer/tc/vaginal-cancer-treatment-patient-information-nci-pdq-general-information-about-vaginal-cancer
  • Vaginal Cancer - Risk Factors http://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.cfm?pageid=P06785

Filed Under: Health