In the United States, penile cancer is diagnosed in about 1,300 men each year. The penile cancer rate is much higher in India and some South American and African countries.
Penile cancer forms in the penis. It generally starts on the glans (head or tip) of the penis.
Penile Cancer Types
The penis contains several types of cells. Penile cancer is classified by the type of cells in which it develops. The main types of penile cancer are:
- Squamous cell carcinoma
- Kaposi sarcoma
- Basal cell
Penile Cancer Risk Factors
Anything that increases your chance of getting penile cancer is a risk factor. These include:
- Age: Most cases are seen in men 50 to 70 years old. About a third are in men under 50.
- Tobacco use
- Human papillomavirus (HPV): This sexually transmitted disease has more than a dozen subtypes. HPV 16 and HPV 18 are linked most often to penile cancer.
- Lack of circumcision at birth
- Phimosis: A condition that makes it difficult to pull back the foreskin. This can lead to the buildup of body oils, bacteria and other debris known as smegma.
- UV light treatment of psoriasis
- AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome)
Behavioral and lifestyle changes can help prevent penile cancer. Visit our prevention and screening section to learn how to manage your risk.
In rare cases, penile cancer can be passed down from one generation to the next. Genetic counseling may be right for you. Visit our genetic testing page to learn more.