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Vulvar Cancer Causes, Risk Factors, and Prevention

Anything that increases your odds of developing vulvar cancer is considered a risk factor. So, it’s important that you discuss your risk factors with your doctor regularly.

Risk factors for vulvar cancer

There are several factors that can make it more likely you will develop vulvar cancer:

  • Age. More than half of women who develop vulvar cancer are over 70 years old.
  • Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection. HPV causes about 50% of cases of squamous cell cancer of the vulva.
  • Vulvar intraepithelial neoplasia (VIN). HPV usually causes this precancerous condition.
  • A history of cervical cancer. If you’ve been treated for cervical cancer or have had abnormal Pap tests, your risk of vulvar cancer is higher.
  • Smoking tobacco. The risk of vulvar cancer is higher in smokers compared to nonsmokers.
  • Melanoma. Your risk is higher if you have a personal or family history of this type of skin cancer or atypical moles elsewhere on your body.
  • Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

How you can reduce your risk of vulvar cancer

Although you cannot completely eliminate your chances of getting vulvar cancer, you can reduce your risk by taking these steps:

  • Maintain regular pelvic exams and Pap tests. Your doctor can recommend a schedule for these tests. Regular exams can increase the odds that vulvar cancer is discovered early when it’s most treatable.
  • Consider the HPV vaccine. Since HPV infection is linked to vulvar cancer, preventing this infection could help reduce your risk. Check with your doctor to see if it’s the right choice for you. The HPV vaccination isn’t recommended for everyone.
  • Quit smoking, vaping or the use of any form of tobacco. Smoking increases your risk of developing vulvar cancer and other cancers. 

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