Cancerous tumours of the vulva

A cancerous tumour of the vulva can grow into and destroy nearby tissue. It can also spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body. Cancerous tumours are also called malignant tumours. There are several types of vulvar cancer.

Squamous cell carcinoma

Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is the most common malignant tumour of the vulva. SCC begins in the epithelial cells of the skin on the vulva. SCC is most often found on the labia majora and minora. It can develop from a precancerous condition called vulvar intraepithelial neoplasia (VIN).

There are different types of SCC of the vulva:

  • The keratinizing type is the most common and it occurs most often in women after menopause.
  • The basaloid and warty types are found more often in younger women with human papillomavirus (HPV) infections.
  • The verrucous carcinoma is uncommon, grows slowly and looks like a large wart.

Vulvar melanoma

Melanoma of the vulva is a type of skin cancer that begins in the cells of the skin that produce pigment (melanocytes). Melanoma most often develops on areas of the skin that are exposed to the sun but may develop in other areas such as the vulva. It may look like a dark area of skin or may start in an existing mole. Vulvar melanoma is most often found on the labia minor or clitoris.


Adenocarcinoma most often starts in the Bartholin glands or sweat glands of the vulva. The tumour is usually found on the sides of the vaginal opening.

Paget disease of the vulva

Paget disease of the vulva often appears as a red, weeping rash on the top layer of vulvar skin. Sometimes it is a symptom of an underlying adenocarcinoma in a Bartholin gland, a sweat gland or nearby tissues of the vagina, cervix, urethra, bladder or rectum.


Sarcomas that may develop in the vulva include leiomyosarcoma, malignant fibrous histiocytoma, Kaposi sarcoma or angiosarcoma.

Expert review and references

  • American Cancer Society. Vulvar Cancer. 2014:
  • American Society of Clinical Oncology. Vulvar Cancer. 2015:
  • Kesterson JP, Lele SB . Tumors of the vulva and vagina. Raghavan D, Blanke CD, Honson DH, et al (eds.). Textbook of Uncommon Cancer. 4th ed. Wiley Blackwell; 2012: 41: 587-599.
  • Klopp AH, Eifel PJ, Berek JS, Konstantinopoulos PA . Cancer of the cervix, vagina and vulva. DeVita VT Jr, Lawrence TS, Rosenberg SA. Cancer: Principles and Practice of Oncology. 10th ed. Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer Health/Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2015: 72:1013-1047.
  • Levine DA, Dizon DS, Yashar CM, Barakat RR, Berchuch A, Markman M, Randall ME. Handbook for Principles and Practice of Gynecologic Oncology. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Wolters Kluwer; 2015.

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