What Is It?
Vulvar cancer occurs in the vulva, the external genital area of a woman's reproductive system. It can affect any part of the vulva, including the labia, the mons pubis (the skin and tissue that cover the pubic bone), the clitoris, or the vaginal or urethral openings. In most cases, it affects the inner edges of the labia majora or labia minora.
The vast majority of vulvar cancers are squamous cell carcinomas. This cancer starts in squamous cells, the main type of skin cells. Squamous cell cancer usually develops over many years. Before it forms, abnormal cells usually develop in the surface layer of the skin, called the epithelium. This condition is called vulvar intraepithelial neoplasia (VIN).
Another common form of vulvar cancer is melanoma. It usually occurs on the labia minora or the clitoris. Uncommon forms of vulvar cancer include Bartholin's gland adenocarcinoma and non-mammary Paget's disease. Few vulvar cancers are sarcomas. These cancers occur in the connective tissue beneath the skin.