What Causes Vulvar Cancer?

At Moffitt Cancer Center, our gynecologic cancer experts are often asked what causes vulvar cancer. While researchers have identified certain risk factors that are believed to influence the likelihood that a woman will develop vulvar cancer, the precise cause of the condition remains unknown.

Like all other forms of cancer, vulvar cancer results from the out-of-control growth of normally healthy cells. When cells grow and divide at an accelerated rate, new cells are produced before they are needed by the body, and the resulting accumulation of excess cells can form a mass, or tumor, that can potentially become malignant (cancerous). The cancer can potentially invade and destroy nearby healthy tissue and enter the lymphatic system or bloodstream to reach distant areas of the body.

Through recent studies, researchers have learned that the uncontrollable cellular growth that leads to the development of squamous cell cancer of the vulva, which is the most common type of vulvar cancer, appears to be linked to:

  • The human papilloma virus (HPV) – Vulvar cancers associated with certain HPV infections (the basaloid and warty subtypes) have distinctive features and are often seen in women who are 40 or younger and smoke.
  • Mutations of the p53 tumor suppressor gene – Vulvar cancers that are unrelated to HPV are usually diagnosed in women over 55 who have p53 gene mutations. When functioning normally, the p53 gene plays an important role in preventing cells from becoming cancerous.

The scientists at Moffitt Cancer Center are nationally recognized for their ongoing research efforts and groundbreaking discoveries, many of which have transformed the care of cancer patients. We continue to gain ground in understanding what can cause healthy cells to become cancerous and, when they do, the most effective ways to treat them. Through our robust clinical trial program, we offer patients opportunities to be among the first to receive and benefit from promising new treatments that are unavailable elsewhere. A recipient of the prestigious designation of Comprehensive Cancer Center by the National Cancer Institute, Moffitt consistently achieves patient outcomes that outrank national averages and provides its patients with higher-quality lives.

If you’d like to learn more about what causes vulvar cancer, you don’t need a referral to consult with the team of cancer experts at Moffitt. Call 1-888-663-3488 or register to schedule an appointment online.