Penile cancer is a type of cancer that affects the penis and other male genitalia. It is rare and often easy to treat with an early diagnosis.
Read on to learn more about the causes, symptoms, and treatment of penile cancer.
What is penile cancer?
For men, penile cancer accounts for less than 1 percent of all cancer cases.
Penile cancer is a rare disease in the United States. According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), penile cancer affects about 1 in every 100,000 males. This type of cancer accounts for less than 1 percent of all cancer cases in men.
In 2018, the ACS estimate that doctors will diagnose approximately 2,320 new cases and that penile cancer will cause about 380 deaths.
Penile cancer develops on or in the penis, which consists of many different types of cell. The type of cell that cancer affects will help determine the best course of treatment for a person.
Regardless of the type of penile cancer, it will usually present on the skin of the penis initially.
The most common type of penile cancer appears in the squamous cells, which are flat skin cells. This type of cancer typically starts in the glands at the tip of the penis or on the foreskin of uncircumcised men.
Squamous cell carcinoma tends to spread slowly, and it is usually easy to treat when doctors catch it in the early stages.
Less common types of penile cancer include:
Verrucous carcinoma: A growth that resembles a large genital wart.
Carcinoma in situ (CIS): The earliest stage of squamous cell cancer that has not yet penetrated deeper into the penis.
Melanoma: A type of skin cancer that can form on the penis.
Basal cell carcinoma: Another type of skin cancer that can develop on the penis.
Adenocarcinoma: A rare type of cancer that forms in the sweat glands of the penis.
Sarcoma: A very rare form of penile cancer that affects the connective tissue, muscles, and blood vessels in the penis.
What does penile cancer look like?
Causes and risk factors
Doctors do not understand the exact causes of penile cancer, but they have identified some possible contributing factors. These include:
bodily fluids becoming trapped in the foreskin
exposure to the human papillomavirus (HPV)
Some men are more at risk of developing penile cancer than others. Common risk factors include:
being over 65 years old