What are the risk factors for penile cancer?

Researchers believe that the human papillomavirus (HPV) is one of the main risk factors for penile cancer. HPV is a group of more than 150 related viruses that can cause warts on the body, especially in the genital area. HPV has also been linked to several types of cancer, and roughly one-third of all penile cancers are believed to be caused by HPV.

Men who are not circumcised at birth are at a higher risk for developing penile cancer. Doctors are not clear on why this is the case, but they believe it is because it is related to other risk factors for penile cancer. For example, men who are not circumcised are more likely to be infected with HPV and develop other conditions linked to penile cancer.

Other risk factors for penile cancer include:

  • Having phimosis. This is a condition where the foreskin is tight and difficult to retract, making it hard to clean the head of the penis. Secretions under the foreskin can build up to form a substance called smegma, which is also a risk factor for penile cancer.
  • Having many sexual partners
  • Using tobacco
  • Having poor personal hygiene
  • Being over the age of 60
  • Having AIDS

What can you do to prevent penile cancer?

There is no guaranteed way to prevent cancer. However, you can reduce your risk for penile cancer by:

  • Getting circumcised
  • Practicing good genital hygiene if you are not circumcised
  • Practicing safe sex by using protection (such as condoms) and limiting your sexual partners
  • Not using tobacco. Speak with your doctor if you need help quitting
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