Vitality

Gynecologic Cancer: Vaginal And Vulvar Skin Cancer Has Unique Genes Compared To Other Melanomas

The kind of melanoma cancer that grows in the vagina is not the same as the ones that grow in other places on your body, researchers say.

Melanoma is a type of cancer that starts in the cells that give your skin its color. A study in the journal Cancer describes how scientists have compared about 50 samples of melanomas from the vagina and the vulva to roughly 2,200 samples of other melanomas, like those from different skin locations — on exposed skin, the palms and soles of the feet and underneath nails, among others. The latter study group also covered melanomas of the body’s mucous membranes, which include the nose, throat and anus. They found that the vulvar and vaginal melanomas were unique, showing certain genetic mutations much more often than other melanoma subtypes and certain genetic mutations much less often.

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The Melanoma Research Foundation lists vaginal melanoma as one of the mucosal types, next to the mouth and the anus. But the study grouped the cancer in the vagina and the vulva together, as gynecological melanomas.

While the vulva, the outer housing of a woman’s genitals, is often referred to as the vagina, the vagina itself is just the opening through which a woman has sex and expels menstrual waste during her period.

skin-1648752_1920 Melanomas can grow anywhere on the body that has skin. Photo courtesy of Pixabay, public domain

“The unique molecular features … render this disease a distinct subtype of melanoma,” the authors wrote in the study.

According to the researchers, experts have yet to identify the best treatments for these two types of cancer, but better understanding how they differ from other melanomas could open up treatment targets. They said studies should exploit the genetic differences in these cancers to develop treatments.

Melanomas can develop anywhere on your body that has skin, but the American Cancer Society says that they often start on the chest and back for men and on the legs for women, or on the neck and face.

“Melanomas can also form in other parts of your body such as the eyes, mouth, genitals, and anal area, but these are much less common than melanoma of the skin,” the group explains. In all, the American Cancer Society estimates that in 2017, melanoma will kill almost 10,000 people.

Source: Hou JY, Baptiste C, Hombalegowda RB, et al. Vulvar and vaginal melanoma: A unique subclass of mucosal melanoma based on a comprehensive molecular analysis of 51 cases compared with 2253 cases of nongynecologic melanoma. Cancer. 2016.

See also:

All the Female Reproductive Cancers

Different Kinds of Cervical Cancer

Spicy Pepper Treats Breast Cancer

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