Causes and prevention of cancer of the vulva
The exact cause of vulval cancer is unknown. But there are certain things called risk factors that can increase your chance of getting the disease. These include:
- VIN: Vulval intraepithelial neoplasia (VIN) is cell changes in the skin of the vulva. It is linked to the human papilloma virus (HPV). The types of HPV most likely to cause VIN are types 16, 18 and 31. VIN is not a cancer but is precancerous and if left untreated can lead to vulval cancer.
- Age: Most vulval cancers are diagnosed in women over 55 years of age.
- Smoking: Smoking may also increase your risk of developing both VIN and vulval cancer. The chemicals in cigarettes can affect how you fight infection in the vulva.
- Benign conditions: If you have certain skin conditions for a long time, you have a higher risk of developing vulval cancer. These conditions include vulval lichen sclerosus and vulval lichen planus. Both can cause long-term inflammation of the skin in the vulval area.
If you feel you may be at risk of vulval cancer, first talk to your family doctor (GP) about your concerns. He or she may advise you to visit a specialist.