Penile cancer

Penile cancer (cancer of the penis) is rare. Approximately 500 men are diagnosed with it in the UK each year. It is most often diagnosed in men between the ages of 50 and 70.

The exact cause of penis cancer is unknown. It seems to be less common in men who have had all or part of their foreskin removed (been circumcised) soon after birth. This might be because men who have not been circumcised may find it more difficult to pull back the foreskin enough to clean thoroughly underneath. The human papilloma virus (HPV) that causes penile warts also increases the risk of penis cancer.

Some skin conditions that affect the penis may go on to develop into cancer if they are left untreated. It's important to see your doctor if you notice white patches, red scaly patches, or red moist patches of skin on your penis.

Cancer of the penis isn't infectious and can't be passed on to other people. Currently, doctors don't think it is caused by an inherited faulty gene and so other members of your family don't have an increased risk of developing it.

Symptoms of penile cancer

The first signs of penis cancer are often a change in colour of the skin, or skin thickening. Later signs may include a growth or sore on the penis - especially on the head of the penis (glans) or the foreskin, but also sometimes on the shaft of the penis. There may be a discharge or bleeding. Most penile cancers are painless.

Sometimes the cancers appear as flat, bluish-brown growths, or as a red rash, or small crusty bumps. Often the cancers are only visible when the foreskin is pulled back.

These changes may occur with conditions other than cancer. Penis cancer is easier to treat if it's diagnosed early, so if you have any worries it's best to go to your doctor straight away.

*Information provided by Macmillan cancer support

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