Gynecologic Cancer Awareness Month

Gynecological cancers encompass all cancers of the female reproductive system, including the cervix, ovaries, fallopian tubes, uterus, vulva, and vagina. All women are at risk for these cancers.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, each year in the United States, approximately 89,000 women are diagnosed with gynecological cancers, and over 29,000 die from them. Each gynecological cancer has different signs and symptoms, as well as different risk factors. Risk increases with age.

September is Gynecologic Cancer Awareness Month.

The major categories of gynecological cancers are:

Cervical Cancer
Infection of the cervix with human papillomavirus (HPV) is almost always the cause of cervical cancer. Women who do not regularly have tests to detect HPV or abnormal cells in the cervix are at increased risk of cervical cancer.

Ovarian Cancer
There are three types of ovarian cancer in adults, including: ovarian epithelial cancer, which begins in the tissue covering the ovary, lining of the fallopian tube, or the peritoneum; ovarian germ cell tumors, which start in the egg or germ cells; and ovarian low malignant potential tumors, which begin in the tissue covering the ovary.

Uterine Cancer
Uterine cancer forms in the tissues of the uterus, the organ in which a fetus develops. The two types of uterine cancer are endometrial cancer and uterine sarcoma.

Endometrial cancer forms in the tissues of the endometrium – the lining of the uterus. Obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes may increase the risk of endometrial cancer.    

Uterine sarcoma is a rare type of cancer that forms in the uterine muscles or in tissues that support the uterus. Exposure to X-rays during radiation therapy can increase the risk of uterine sarcoma.

Treatment with the breast cancer drug tamoxifen is a risk factor for both types of uterine cancer.

Vaginal Cancer
There are two main types of vaginal cancer: squamous cell carcinoma and adenocarcinoma. Adenocarcinoma is more likely than squamous cell cancer to spread to the lungs and lymph nodes. A rare type of adenocarcinoma is linked to being exposed to diethylstilbestrol (DES) before birth.

Adenocarcinomas not linked with being exposed to DES are most common in women after menopause.

Vulvar Cancer
Vulvar cancer forms in a woman's external genitalia. Vulvar cancer most often affects the outer vaginal lips.

Abnormal cells can grow on the surface of the vulvar skin for a long time. This condition is called vulvar intraepithelial neoplasia (VIN). Because it is possible for VIN to become vulvar cancer, it is important to get treatment.

Risk factors for vulvar cancer include having VIN, HPV infection, and having a history of genital warts.

What is the AACR Doing in This Area?

Ovarian Cancer-Focused Conference

In September, the AACR and the Rivkin Center for Ovarian Cancer will present the special conference Advances in Ovarian Cancer Research. The conference will focus on advances in ovarian cancer research and treatment, exploring the latest basic and translational research in the field and the applications of this research to the development of therapeutic options and the treatment of women with ovarian cancer.

Grants and Awards

The following 2019 awards went to investigators whose studies focused on various aspects of gynecological cancers:

2019 AACR Scholar-in-Training Award

  • Justyna E. Kanska, PhD, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center

2019 AACR-Bristol-Myers Squibb Oncology Scholar-in-Training Award

  • Sarah J. Hill, MD, PhD, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute

2019 AACR Margaret Foti  Scholar-in-Training Award

  • Zhiyuan Hu, University of Oxford (UK)

2019 AACR-Pezcoller Foundation Scholar-in-Training Award

  • Robert L. Hollis, PhD, University of Edinburgh (UK)

2019 AACR-SIC Scholar-in-Training Awards

  • Marco Giordano, PhD, European Institute of Oncology (Italy)

2019 AACR Minority and Minority-Serving Institution Faculty Scholars in Cancer Research

  • Luciana Madeira da Silva, PhD, University of South Alabama

2019 AACR Minority Scholar in Cancer Research Award

  • Anita M. Chanana, BS,  Stanford University School of Medicine
  • Claudia B. Colon-Echevarria, MPH,  Ponce Health Sciences University (Puerto Rico)
  • Janice M. Santiago-Ofarrill, PhD, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center

Last year the AACR provided over $64 million in grants and awards funding lifesaving cancer research. There are many ways you can support our mission to prevent and cure all cancers. Take Action

The American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) is a 501c3 registered nonprofit organization with offices at 615 Chestnut Street, 17th Floor, Philadelphia, PA 19106 | 215.440.9300