Risk of Development of Vulvar Cancer in Women With Lichen Sclerosus or Lichen Planus: A Systematic Review

J Low Genit Tract Dis. 2022 Jul 1;26(3):250-257. doi: 10.1097/LGT.0000000000000673. Epub 2022 Mar 11.


Objective: Vulvar lichen sclerosus (VLS) and possibly vulvar lichen planus (VLP) are associated with an increased vulvar cancer (VC) risk. We analyzed the risk of VC and its precursors after a diagnosis of VLS or VLP.

Materials and methods: A search was performed to identify articles describing the development of vulvar neoplasia in women with VLS or VLP. This systematic review was registered with the PROSPERO database.

Results: Fourteen studies on VLS included 14,030 women without a history of vulvar neoplasia. Vulvar cancer, differentiated vulvar intraepithelial neoplasia (dVIN), and vulvar high-grade squamous intraepithelial lesion occurred in 2.2% (314/14,030), 1.2% (50/4,175), and 0.4% (2/460), respectively. Considering women with previous or current VC, the rate was 4.0% (580/14,372). In one study, dVIN preceded VC in 52.0% of the cases. Progression of dVIN to VC was 18.1% (2/11).The risk was significantly higher in the first 1-3 years after a biopsy of VLS and with advancing age; it significantly decreased with ultrapotent topical steroid use.For the 14,268 women with VLP (8 studies), the rates of VC, dVIN, and vulvar high-grade squamous intraepithelial lesion were 0.3% (38/14,268), 2.5% (17/689), and 1.4% (10/711), respectively.

Conclusions: Vulvar lichen sclerosus is associated with an increased risk of VC, especially in the presence of dVIN and with advancing age. Ultrapotent topical steroids seem to reduce this risk. An increased risk of developing VC has been suggested for VLP. Hence, treatment and regular life-long follow-up should be offered to women with VLS or VLP.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Carcinoma in Situ* / pathology
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell* / pathology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lichen Planus* / complications
  • Lichen Planus* / epidemiology
  • Lichen Sclerosus et Atrophicus* / complications
  • Lichen Sclerosus et Atrophicus* / diagnosis
  • Lichen Sclerosus et Atrophicus* / epidemiology
  • Squamous Intraepithelial Lesions*
  • Vulvar Lichen Sclerosus* / complications
  • Vulvar Lichen Sclerosus* / epidemiology
  • Vulvar Lichen Sclerosus* / pathology
  • Vulvar Neoplasms* / complications
  • Vulvar Neoplasms* / epidemiology