The exact cause of vulvar cancer is unknown, but there are some factors known to increase the risk of developing it:
- Vulvar intraepithelial neoplasia (VIN) - This is a pre-cancerous condition of the vulva. The skin of the vulva changes and may itch, burn or feel sore. VIN may disappear without treatment, but it can sometimes become cancerous. About one in three women who develop vulvar cancer has VIN.
- Human papillomavirus (HPV) - Sometimes known as the wart virus, HPV is a sexually transmitted infection that can cause women to develop VIN. Although having HPV increases the risk of vulvar cancer, most women with HPV don′t develop it.
- Other skin conditions - Non-cancerous (benign) skin conditions such as vulvar lichen sclerosus, vulvar lichen planus and extramammary Paget′s disease can cause itching and soreness, and after many years, may develop into cancer.
- Smoking - Cigarette smoking increases the risk of developing VIN and cancer of the vulva. This may be because smoking can make the immune system work less effectively.
- Vulvar cancer is not contagious and it can′t be passed to other people through sexual contact.
- It is also not caused by an inherited faulty gene so it can′t be passed on to children.