HPV And Penile Cancer

If you or your sexual partner has been diagnosed with the Human Papillomavirus (HPV), you are probably already aware that the virus may cause genital warts. While this is certainly a very unpleasant and embarrassing symptom, what is likely to concern you somewhat more is the link between HPV and cancers in both men and women. In men, these include penile and anal cancer.

What Is Penile Cancer?

Penile cancer is a condition in which malignant cancer cells form in the spongy erectile tissue of a man's penis. It is a very rare form of cancer in the Western world. An estimated 1 in 100,000 North American men are diagnosed with penile cancer each year. The condition is much more common in Asia, Africa and South America than in the U.S. Diagnoses of penile cancer are also very rare in men under 40 years old and most sufferers are aged over 60. Some studies have found that men who were circumcised in early childhood or adolescence are less likely to develop penile cancer.

And The Link to HPV?

Having HPV does increase a man's chances of developing penile cancer; however, there are a range of other risk factors attributed to disease, including poor genital hygiene, smoking and a having a weak immune system, among others. Therefore HPV is certainly not the not the only cause of penile cancer and having HPV does not mean that a man will definitely end up with the disease. There are over 100 known strains of HPV, each with its own number. Strains numbers 16 and 18 are the ones most commonly associated with penile cancer. Remember that some strains of HPV cause genital warts and some do not. It is actually those strains of HPV which do not cause genital warts that are generally associated with penile cancer, and numbers 16 and 18 fall into this category. While genital warts caused by other strains of HPV do sometimes develop into cancer, this is less common. Studies of the numbers of men with HPV who go on to develop penile cancer have produced widely divergent results. In the past, the figure has been placed at anywhere between 30 and 70%. It's clear that more research is required to  obtain a more reliable estimate.


As with any type of cancer, the earlier penile cancer is detected and treated, the better the prognosis and chances of recovery. Men with symptoms of HPV must seek professional medical help right away. Your health care provider will be able to talk to you about treatment for HPV and how to look out for signs of something more serious developing.

Early symptoms of penile cancer include thickening of the skin or build up of tissue, as well as redness or irritation. If the cancer is slightly more advanced, there may swelling or even be a lump or a sore on the penis. These can grow on the glans, under the foreskin or on the shaft. They are often not painful, but they sometimes become sore and may even bleed. Sometimes penile cancer may progress to an advanced stage before these symptoms become apparent. That's why it's so important for men with HPV to go for regular check ups with their doctor or whoever provides their treatment. It's also important to remember that other conditions besides penile cancer can cause these symptoms, including some sexually transmitted diseases. So if you have these symptoms, don't panic and assume the very worst, the best thing you can do is keep a cool head and see your doctor for diagnosis and treatment.

Lastly, don't put off that trip to clinic. These symptoms naturally incur a great deal of embarrassment for many men, but facing up to that embarrassment could make the difference between life and death.