Risks for vulvar cancer
Certain behaviours, substances or conditions can affect your risk, or chance, of developing cancer. Some things increase your risk and some things decrease it. Most cancers are the result of many risks. But sometimes cancer develops in people who don't have any risks.
The risk of developing vulvar cancer increases with age. It happens most often in women older than 70 years of age. But the number of younger women developing vulvar cancer has been increasing. This is because there are now more human papillomavirus (HPV) infections in women younger than 40 years of age, and HPV is one of the risks for vulvar cancer.
Vulvar intraepithelial neoplasia (VIN) is a precancerous condition of the vulva. Some of the things that increase the risk for vulvar cancer may also cause this precancerous condition. It isn't cancer, but can sometimes become vulvar cancer if it isn't treated. Find out more about precancerous conditions of the vulva.
The following can increase your risk for vulvar cancer. There are things you can do to lower your risk and help protect you from developing cancer.
Infection with the human papillomavirus (HPV) @(Model.HeadingTag)>
The human papillomavirus (HPV) can cause warts (called papillomas) on different parts of the body, including the genitals. HPV infections are very common because the virus is easily passed by skin-to-skin contact with any HPV-infected area of the body. It is mainly spread through sexual contact, including oral sex.
Many women who develop vulvar cancer have an HPV infection. This is especially true for younger women who develop this cancer.
But having an HPV infection doesn't mean that you will develop vulvar cancer. Many different types of HPV can infect the vulva. Only some types cause abnormal changes to cells that may turn into cancer.
You can lower your risk of infection by getting vaccinated against HPV and practising safer sex. You should also have regular pelvic exams.
Weak immune system @(Model.HeadingTag)>
Having a weak immune system (immunosuppression) increases your risk for vulvar cancer. This includes people with
A weak immune system can lower the body's defences against infection and disease. It can increase the risk for an HPV infection. When the immune system is weak, there is a greater chance that precancerous changes to cells in the vulva will develop into vulvar cancer.
Personal history of vulvar skin conditions @(Model.HeadingTag)>
If you have a history of vulvar skin conditions, you have a higher risk for vulvar cancer. These conditions include lichen sclerosus, which is a non-cancerous (benign) condition of the vulva that causes long-term (chronic) inflammation of the skin.
Having a vulvar skin condition can cause damage to the skin of the vulva over the long term. This damage may be what increases the risk for vulvar cancer.
Personal history of cervical, vaginal or anal cancer @(Model.HeadingTag)>
Possible risks @(Model.HeadingTag)>
The following have been linked with vulvar cancer, but there is not enough evidence to know for sure that they are risks. More research is needed.
- smoking tobacco
- personal history of
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