Risk factors and prevention
What are risk factors for vulvar cancer?
The following have been suggested as risk factors for vulvar cancer:
- Age – of the women who develop vulvar cancer, three-fourths are over age 50 and two-thirds are over age 70.
- Chronic vulvar inflammation.
- Infection with the human papillomavirus.
- Human immunodeficiency virus infection.
- Lichen sclerosis – can cause the vulval skin to become very itchy and may slightly increase the possibility of vulvar cancer.
- Melanoma or atypical moles on nonvulvar skin – a family history of melanoma and dysplastic nevi anywhere on the body may increase the risk of vulvar cancer.
- Vulvar intraepithelial neoplasia – there is an increased risk for vulvar cancer in women with VIN, although most cases do not progress to cancer.
- Other genital cancers.
How can vulvar cancer be prevented?
The cause of vulvar cancer is not known at this time; however, certain risk factors are suspected as contributors to the development of the disease. Suggestions for prevention include:
- Avoid known risk factors when possible.
- Delay onset of sexual activity.
- Use condoms. Research shows that condoms may protect against HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases that are transmitted through body fluids. However, condoms will not protect against infection with HPV since this infection is transmitted by skin-to-skin contact.
- Do not smoke.
- Have regular physical checkups.
- Have routine Pap tests and pelvic examinations.
- Routinely check entire body for irregular growth of moles.