What Are the Risk Factors?

Photo of four women

Several factors may increase the chance that you will get vaginal or vulvar cancer.

There is no way to know for sure if you will get vaginal or vulvar cancer. Some women get these cancers without being at high risk. However, several factors may increase the chance that you will get vaginal or vulvar cancer, including if you—

  • Are infected with certain types of human papillomavirus (HPV) for a long time.
  • Have had cervical precancer (cell changes that might become cancer if they are not treated appropriately) or cervical cancer.
  • Have had vulvar or vaginal precancer.
  • Have a condition that weakens your immune system (such as HIV, the virus that can lead to AIDS), making it hard for your body to fight off health problems.
  • Smoke. Among women who have an HPV infection, smoking may prevent the body’s immune system from getting rid of the HPV infection.
  • Have chronic vulvar itching or burning.

If one or more of these things is true for you, it does not mean you will get vaginal or vulvar cancer. But you should speak with your doctor to see if he or she recommends more frequent exams.