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 1 in every 100,000 people with a penis. Most types of penile cancers begin in the skin cells of the penis.

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.

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Some studies have shown that circumcision may help prevent the development of penile cancer. This may be due to:

One of the reasons some experts maintain circumcision may help to prevent penile cancer is due to a condition called phimosis, when the foreskin cannot retract.

It can also be due to a buildup of smegma in some uncircumcised people.

The American Cancer Society states that in the United States, the risk of penile cancer is low among both people who are circumcised and those who are uncircumcised.

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.

Learn more about circumcision.

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

Learn more about penile cancer.

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
  • smoking
  • certain psoriasis treatments, such as psoralen
  • not practicing proper hygiene

Learn more about HPV.

Penile cancer typically affects the skin or the head of the penis. Common symptoms include:

Other symptoms may include:

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.

Learn about penis shapes and types.

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:

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.