The symptoms of vulvar cancer include persistent itching, tenderness, pain, thickening or color changes in the skin of the vulva, and non-menstrual bleeding, according to Mayo Clinic. Another symptom of vulvar cancer is the presence of wart-like bumps, lumps, open sores or ulcers.
Although the cause of vulvar cancer is unknown as of 2015, there are some risk factors that increase the likelihood of developing it, reports Mayo Clinic. The risk of developing cancer of the vulva increases with age; the average age of most women diagnosed with vulvar cancer is 65. However, it can occur at any age. Women exposed to the human papillomavirus, or HPV, or who are infected with the human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV, are at a heightened risk for vulvar cancer. Smokers are also more prone to development of this type of cancer than nonsmokers.
Preexisting skin conditions that involve the vulva can increase the risk of cancer, including lichen sclerosus, which is a condition characterized by the thinning of the skin on the vulva and itchiness, advises Mayo Clinic. Women with a history of precancerous conditions of the vulva are also more apt to develop vulva cancer. This includes vulvar intraepithelial neoplasia, although most women with this condition do not develop cancer.