Pigmented lesions of the vulva

Dermatol Clin. 1992 Apr;10(2):361-70.


Pigmented vulvar lesions, including diffuse hyperpigmentation, are present in 10% to 12% of white women. About 2% of them are nevocellular nevi. In general, nevi on the vulva are identical by morphologic and histopathologic criteria to nevi elsewhere on the body, with the exception of a small subset of nevi in younger women. Nevi in this subset have the unusual features of enlarged junctional nests that are variable in size, shape, and position. The long-term biologic behavior of these nevi has not been determined. Other benign pigmented lesions include lentigines, melanosis, postinflammatory hyperpigmentation, seborrheic keratoses, and warts. Malignant pigmented lesions include some cases of vulvar intraepithelial neoplasia and melanoma. Melanoma of the vulva has a poorer prognosis overall than melanoma on the torso, apparently because of the extent of the disease at the time of diagnosis. Therefore, improving mortality rates depends to some extent on earlier diagnosis. Management of female patients includes careful inspection of the vulva with each full-skin or gynecologic examination, followed by biopsy of any suspicious lesion. The need for excision of benign nevocellular and melanocytic lesions is dependent on the histopathology. Because there are no long-term prospective studies of vulvar melanosis and the group of unusual vulvar nevi, treatment must be individualized.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Melanoma / epidemiology
  • Melanoma / pathology
  • Nevus, Pigmented / epidemiology
  • Nevus, Pigmented / pathology
  • Pigmentation Disorders / epidemiology
  • Pigmentation Disorders / pathology*
  • Prognosis
  • Vulvar Diseases / epidemiology
  • Vulvar Diseases / pathology*
  • Vulvar Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Vulvar Neoplasms / pathology