Vulvar intraepithelial neoplasia (VIN), also called vulvar or vulval neoplasia, is a pre-cancer of the vulva, located in the top most layer of skin called the epidermis. It is NOT cancer, but being diagnosed with VIN means that you may be at an increased risk of developing vulvar cancer.
However, most women with VIN do not go on to develop cancer and the medical profession aren’t sure of the relationship between VIN and cancer because there has been little research into the subject.
No one knows what causes VIN, but for women in their 30s and 40s who develop it, it seems to be linked to infection with HPV. The cause of VIN in older women may be due to lichen sclerosus.
Some women have no symptoms but the condition may be noticed at a routine gynecological check, as changes in the skin are visible to the eye (VIN can also resemble dermatitis).
Other women can have various symptoms, including:
• Severe vulvar pain
• Severe vulvar itching
• A lump at the vulva
• Thickening skin at the vulva
• A raised skin rash around the vulva (that looks similar to warts)
• Tingling sensation of the vulva
• Painful sexual intercourse.
Your doctor will examine you. He will normally be able to identify VIN just by looking but this will need to be confirmed with a biopsy. A tiny amount of tissue will be removed from the affected area and examined under a microscope to see if it is VIN or another skin condition.
You can have this procedure done with a local or general anaesthetic. It depends on your preference, your medical history and your doctor’s opinion.
How Many Women Have VIN?
It is not known how many women have VIN because quite a few women have no symptoms and so have no reason to attend a doctor. Many cases of VIN are discovered by chance at a visit to the gynecologist.
There have been more women diagnosed with VIN in recent years but it isn’t known whether this is because more women have the condition or whether doctors are just getting better at diagnosing it.