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Yes, it can. Human papillomavirus (HPV) is one of the primary risk factors for penile cancer, meaning that contracting HPV increases a man’s chances of developing this type of malignancy (although many men with HPV never develop penile cancer). In fact, research suggests that almost half of all men with penile cancer also have evidence of having contracted HPV at some point in their lives. HPV is believed to cause penile cancer because it produces E6 and E7 proteins, which prevent tumor suppressor genes from functioning as intended, which in turn allows cells to divide uncontrollably. Adolescents who receive the HPV vaccine may be provided some protection from penile cancer. Because there is no approved test for HPV, you should pay particular attention to any changes in your genital region that could potentially be a sign or symptom for penile cancer.

Other risk factors for penile cancer

As noted above, although penile cancer can be caused by HPV, not every man with HPV develops penile cancer, and there are a number of other risk factors for this type of malignancy. These include:

  • Not being circumcised – Men who are circumcised, and especially those who were circumcised at birth (as opposed to during puberty, adolescence or adulthood), have a lower chance of developing penile cancer.
  • Having phimosis – For uncircumcised men, failing to regularly retract the foreskin and clean the entire penis can contribute to the development of penile cancer. As such, men with phimosis (a condition characterized by the tightening of the foreskin around the tip of the penis so that it can’t fully retract) are more likely to develop penile cancer.
  • Being over age 60 – The majority of men who are diagnosed with penile cancer are at least 60 years old.
  • Smoking – Smoking increases a man’s chance of developing various types of cancer, including penile cancer.
  • Undergoing PUVA therapy – Psoralen and ultraviolet A (PUVA) therapy, which is commonly used to treat psoriasis, can increase a man’s risk of developing penile cancer.

For more information

If you have penile skin changes or other symptoms, you can rely on the experts in the Genitourinary Oncology Program at Moffitt Cancer Center. Request an appointment by calling us at 1-888-663-3488 or completing a new patient registration form online.