Vulvar cancer forms in a woman's external genitalia. The vulva includes inner and outer lips of the vagina, clitoris, opening of the vagina and its glands, mons pubis, and the perineum. Vulvar cancer most often affects the outer vaginal lips. Less often, cancer affects the inner vaginal lips, clitoris, or vaginal glands.
Vulvar cancer usually forms slowly over a number of years. Abnormal cells can grow on the surface of the vulvar skin for a long time. This condition is called vulvar intraepithelial neoplasia (VIN). Because it is possible for VIN to become vulvar cancer, it is very important to get treatment. Risk factors include having VIN, having human papillomavirus (HPV) infection, having a history of genital warts, having many sexual partners, having first sexual intercourse at a young age, and having a history of abnormal Pap tests (Pap smears).
In 2019, some 6,070 women living in the United States will be diagnosed with vulvar cancer and 1,280 will die of the disease, according to estimates by the National Cancer Institute's Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) Program.
Source: National Cancer Institute