The exact cause of penile cancer is not known, but there are certain risk factors for the disease. A risk factor is anything that increases a person's chance of getting a disease. The risk factors for cancer of the penis may include the following:
- Uncircumcision. Men who are not circumcised at birth have a higher risk for getting cancer of the penis.
- Human papilloma virus (HPV) infection. HPV includes more than 100 types of viruses that can cause warts (papillomas). Certain types of HPV can infect the reproductive organs and the anal area. These types of HPV are passed from one person to another during sexual contact.
- Smoking. Smoking exposes the body to many cancer-causing chemicals that affect more than the lungs.
- Smegma. Oily secretions from the skin can accumulate under the foreskin of the penis. The result is a thick, bad-smelling substance called smegma. If the penis is not cleaned thoroughly, the presence of smegma can cause irritation and inflammation.
- Phimosis. This is a condition in which the foreskin becomes constricted and difficult to retract.
- Treatment for psoriasis. The skin disease psoriasis is sometimes treated with a combination of medication and exposure to ultraviolet light, which may increase a person's risk for penile cancer.
- Age. Over half of the cases of penile cancer occur in men over age 68.
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