Women with vulvar cancers who test positive for human papillomavirus (HPV) may have improved survival compared with HPV-negative patients, according to a study published in the International Journal of Cancer.1

Although women with HPV are at an increased risk of developing malignancies such as oropharyngeal, cervical, vulvar, and vaginal cancers, previous studies have shown that the HPV status of a patient may predict survival.

For this meta-analysis, researchers reviewed the results of 18 studies that included 1638 patients with HPV-tested vulvar cancers, of which 541 were HPV-positive and 1097 were HPV-negative.

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Eleven studies assessed the 5-year overall survival (OS) of patients with vulvar cancer according to HPV status. The pooled hazard ratio [HR] was 0.61 (95% CI, 0.48-0.77; P < .001) for 5-year OS; the results of 8 studies, 5 of which showed statistically superior HRs, suggested that women who were HPV-positive had improved 5-year OS rates compared with others.

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Seven studies investigated the effect of HPV status on 5-year disease free survival (DFS) and showed a pooled HR of 0.75 (95% CI, 0.57-1.00; P = .049).

The authors concluded that these “results add to knowledge of the natural history of vulvar cancers and point to a possible clinical value of HPV testing of vulvar cancers when planning the most optimal management and follow-up strategy,” but added that “larger studies that are able to take into account other prognostic factors are needed to provide additional evidence.”


  1. Rasmussen CL, Sand FL, Frederiksen MH, Anderson KK, Kjaer SK. Does HPV status influence survival after vulvar cancer? Inter J Canc. 2017 Nov 1. doi: 10.1002/ijc.31139 [Epub ahead of print]