Some studies suggest that circumcision might prevent penile cancer. However, this is unverified, and more research is needed.
Penile cancer is rare in the United States. It typically only affects
This article discusses whether circumcision can help prevent penile cancer. It also looks at other ways to help lower the risk or prevent the condition and explains the risk factors and symptoms.
Some studies have shown that circumcision may help prevent the development of penile cancer. This may be due to:
- lower rates of transmission of human papillomavirus (HPV) and HIV
- reduced risk of chronic inflammatory conditions, such as balanitis and phimosis
- improved hygiene
One of the reasons some experts maintain circumcision may help to prevent penile cancer is
It can also be due to a buildup of smegma in some uncircumcised people.
There is no official recommendation that all people born with a penis should undergo circumcision. It is essentially a decision for the parents or caregivers of an infant or the person themselves later on.
Penile cancer is not always preventable. However, an individual can reduce their risk of developing penile cancer in the following ways:
- getting the HPV vaccine if possible to protect against developing the infection
- using condoms or other barrier methods during sexual activities
- quitting or avoiding smoking
- regularly cleaning the penis and under the foreskin if present
Some people may develop penile cancer without risk factors. However, some risk factors may include:
- having HPV
- not using condoms or barrier methods if having sex with multiple partners
- certain psoriasis treatments, such as psoralen
- not practicing proper hygiene
Penile cancer typically affects the skin or the head of the penis. Common symptoms include:
- sores or growths that do not heal within 4 weeks
- bleeding from the penis or under the foreskin, if present
- smelly discharge
- thickening of the skin of the penis or the foreskin
- change in color of the penis or foreskin
Other symptoms may include:
- lump in the groin
- feeling tired
- stomach pain
- unexpected weight loss
It is important to speak with a healthcare professional if there are any changes to the appearance of the penis, discharge or bleeding from the penis, or other symptoms that do not clear with treatment.
The following are some questions people frequently ask about penile cancer.
How common is penile cancer in uncircumcised people?
In the U.S., the risk of penile cancer is low in both circumcised and uncircumcised people.
How is penile cancer treated?
Treatment for penile cancer typically includes:
- radiation therapy
- laser ablation
- topical treatments
What is the main cause of penile cancer?
One of the leading causes of penile cancer is the presence of HPV.
What can be mistaken for penile cancer?
There are benign or noncancerous conditions that people may mistake for penile cancer. These conditions include genital warts and Bowen’s disease.
Some studies have suggested that circumcision may help prevent penile cancer. However, in many areas, the prevalence is low in both circumcised and uncircumcised people.
There is no guarantee a person can prevent penile cancer completely. However, practicing proper hygiene, using condoms or other barrier methods with multiple sexual partners, and avoiding smoking can help reduce the risk.
If a person notices any changes in the appearance of their penis, discharge or bleeding, or lumps in the groin area, they should contact a healthcare professional.