Do You Have Penis Cancer?

Penis cancer, or cancer of the penis, is rare form of cancer. Knowledge of what is penile cancer and recognizing the penile cancer symptoms can literally safe your penis, and even your life.

What Is Penile Cancer?

Penis cancer

Cancer of the penis is a malignant growth on the skin or in the tissues of the penis. There is more than one type of penile cancer but the most common types are:

  • Squamous cell carcinoma (95%)
  • Melanoma (2%)
  • Basal cell cancer (2%)
  • Adenocarcinoma (very rare)
  • Sarcoma (very rare)

Squamous cell carcinoma is by far the most common form of penile cancer. These tumors tend to grow slowly so the recovery ratio is high if discovered early on.

Squamous cell carcinoma develops from flat skin cells called squamous cells. It can develop anywhere on the penis but is most common on the foreskin (in uncircumcised men) or on the penis glans.

How Common Is Penile Cancer?

According to the American Cancer Society Opens in new window symbol, penis cancer occurs in less than 1 man in every 100,000 and accounts for less than 1% of all cancers in men in the US. Penile cancer however accounts for up to 10% of cancers in men in some parts of Asia, Africa, and South America.

The exact reasons for this big difference is unknown but suggests that penile cancer may be preventable up to certain extend, e.g. by making certain lifestyle choices (not smoking), avoiding HPV infection (vaccination, use of condoms) and good genital hygiene.

What Causes Cancer Of The Penis?

The exact cause for penile cancer is unknown but there are some known risk factors for penis cancer:

Age

The risk of getting penile cancer increases with age. Around 80% of all new diagnosis is in men over 55 years old.

Smoking

Smokers are more likely to develop penile cancer and smokers that have HPV infection are at even higher risk.

Human Papilloma Virus Infection (HPV)

The human papilloma virus (HPV) is a group of over 100 related viruses that are commonly known as warts (including Genital Warts). Chronic HPV infection can eventually cause certain types of cancers, including penis cancer.

AIDS

Men with AIDS are at higher risk of developing cancer of the penis, most likely because of lowered immune system response.

Circumcision

Studies have shown that men that are circumcised as children are less likely of getting penile cancer (though cancer of the penis is generally not used as an argument for routine circumstances of newborns).

Still, uncircumcised men with certain conditions, like smegma (secretion under the foreskin) and phimosis (tight foreskin), may be at higher risk of developing penis cancer than men that were circumcised as babies.

UV Light Treatment Of Psoriasis

Psoriasis patients treated with ultraviolet A (UVA) light source (PUVA therapy) have increased risk of developing penile cancer. Covering the genitals during treatment reduces this risk.

Skin Conditions

Some rare skin conditions of the foreskin (like erythroplasia of Queyrat and balanitis xerotica obliterans) can increase the risk of developing cancer of the penis in the future.

Penile Cancer Symptoms

The first symptoms of penile cancer are usually change in the penis skin, i.e. the skin may change color and become thicker. Reddish rash and lump on the penis are other common penile cancer symptoms.

The most common symptoms of penile cancer are:

  • Change of skin color in the affected area, usually the penis glans or under the foreskin (in uncircumcised men)
  • Thickening of the foreskin or the penis skin
  • Rash and / or small crusty bumps
  • Sore or lump on the penis
  • Swelling at the end of the penis (especially when the foreskin is constricted)

All these penile cancer symptoms can be symptoms of other penis problems. This is why you must see a doctor if you experience any penis abnormalities. It is very likely that it's not cancer BUT it is still likely to need be treated.

Moreover, if it is penis cancer, then the sooner you start your treatment, the better change you have of full recovery.