Penile cancer

Cancer risk

Penile cancer

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Even if you have already been treated for cancer, reducing your risk factors may lower the chance of your cancer coming back.

You might also want to talk to your family members about reducing their cancer risk.

What are risk factors?

A risk factor is something that increases your chance of getting cancer. 

Having a risk factor doesn't mean you will definitely develop cancer but it means you are more likely to get it than someone without the risk factor. For example, people who smoke cigarettes are much more likely to get lung cancer than those who don’t.

Penile cancer risk factors

The cause of penile cancer is not known but there are several risk factors.

Having one or more risk factors does not mean that you will get penile cancer.

Risk factors for penile cancer include:

  • infection with human papilloma virus (HPV)
  • inability to retract the foreskin (phimosis)
  • being over 50 years of age
  • smoking
  • smegma, which can cause irritation and inflammation of the glans penis
  • weakened immune system, e.g. in men with HIV infection
  • previous PUVA (a treatment for psoriasis involving the drug psoralen and exposure to UV light)
  • lichen sclerosis (a skin disease).

Men who were circumcised as children have a lower risk of developing penile cancer. This may relate to the fact that phimosis and smegma don’t occur in circumcised men.

Reducing your cancer risk

Improving your lifestyle is an important way to lower your chance of developing cancer. Taking care of yourself in this way can also have other positive effects on your health.

Things you can do include:

  • eating a healthy, well balanced diet
  • staying active and exercising regularly
  • don’t smoke
  • limiting how much alcohol you drink
  • maintaining a healthy weight
  • protecting your skin from too much sun.

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