Putative precancerous lesions of vulvar squamous cell carcinoma

Semin Diagn Pathol. 2021 Jan;38(1):27-36. doi: 10.1053/j.semdp.2020.09.006. Epub 2020 Sep 6.


Precursor lesions of vulvar squamous cell carcinoma (VSCC) can be divided into two major biologic and prognostic groups: HPV-associated and HPV-independent VSCC. These two pathways are categorized as usual vulvar intraepithelial neoplasia (uVIN) with progression to basaloid or warty VSCC and differentiated vulvar intraepithelial neoplasia (dVIN) with progression to the more common keratinizing VSCC. While the HPV-dependent pathway to squamous cell carcinoma is well-understood, the development of squamous cell carcinoma from HPV-independent lesions is less clear. The majority of HPV-independent lesions fall into the dVIN category, and mutations in TP53 have been implicated as the driver behind their development. Other less common HPV-independent precursor lesions, termed differentiated exophytic vulvar intraepithelial lesion (DEVIL) and vulvar acanthosis with altered differentiation (VAAD), have also been characterized as precursors to keratinizing and verrucous VSCC. Inflammatory conditions of the vulva such as lichen sclerosus and lichen simplex chronicus also put patients at risk for developing VSCC. We herein evaluate the available evidence and biologic basis for these VSCC precursor lesions, among other speculated entities, and discuss their clinical, diagnostic, and prognostic features.

Keywords: DEVIL; Differentiated VIN; HPV; Usual VIN; VAAD; Vulvar intraepithelial neoplasia; Vulvar squamous cell carcinoma.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Carcinoma in Situ / diagnosis*
  • Carcinoma in Situ / pathology
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / diagnosis*
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / pathology
  • Disease Progression
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Precancerous Conditions / diagnosis*
  • Precancerous Conditions / pathology
  • Prognosis
  • Vulvar Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Vulvar Neoplasms / pathology