What are the risk factors for penile cancer?

Men who smoke are more likely to develop penile cancer than those who do not smoke. Smokers who have HPV infections have an even higher risk. Smoking exposes your body to many cancer-causing chemicals. These harmful substances are inhaled into the lungs, where they are absorbed into the blood. While in the bloodstream, they can travel throughout the body to cause cancer in many different areas. Researchers believe that these substances damage the DNA of cells in the penis, which can lead to the development of penile cancer.

UV light treatment of psoriasis
Men who have a skin disease called psoriasis are sometimes treated with drugs called psoralens, followed by exposure of the body to an ultraviolet A (UVA) light source. This is known as PUVA therapy. Men who have received this treatment have been found to have a higher rate of penile cancer. Because of this risk, men being treated with PUVA now have their genitals covered during treatment.

The risk of penile cancer goes up with age. About 4 out of 5 cases of the disease are diagnosed in men over age 55.

Men with AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) have a higher risk of penile cancer. This higher risk seems to be related to their lowered immune response, but lifestyle factors may also play a role. In some studies, men with penile cancer who were HIV-positive were more likely to smoke and to be infected with HPV than HIV-negative men with penile cancer.


American Cancer Society

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