Like prostate and testicular cancer, penile cancer is one of the malignant ailments afflicting men specifically. It's a rare type of cancer but has a very high mortality rate. The genital deformities caused by the cancer makes it difficult for the survivor to perform basic bodily functions like urination and sexual intercourse. Physical deformities apart, penile cancer also causes psychological distress to the survivor; in some cases penectomy (removal of the penis) has to be performed to treat the cancer. There are some factors that increase the risk of the disease. But the good news is that some of them can be modified or prevented to reduce the cancer risk. Here are some of them.
Phimosis: A tight foreskin leads to hygiene problems due to the accumulation of smegma. This could lead to an infection and an increased risk of penile cancer. In fact, as many as 90 percent of penile cancer cases are caused by phimosis. To reduce the risk, it's important to maintain good personal hygiene and carry out circumcision in childhood or adolescence.
HPV: The incidence of penile cancer due to human papillomavirus or HPV is 42-48 percent. In regions like Maranhao, Brazil, HPV infection was seen in 63 percent of penile cases. Reckless acts such as sexual promiscuity also increases the chance of HPV infection among men.
Sexual promiscuity: Penile cancer rates are high in places were men have early sexual encounters and multiple partners. Around 80 percent of penile cancer sufferers from Puerto Rico fit this profile. It's important, therefore, to insist on protection during sex to bring down the risk of penile cancer.
Tobacco use: Tobacco use has been linked to multiple cancers like lung, larynx, mouth, oesophagus, throat, bladder,etc. But in the case of penile cancers, studies have been conflicting. Some showed an association while others didn't. The ones that did also pointed out that using tobacco in more than one form (chewing, smoking, etc.) increases the risk even further.
Penile trauma: Injuries to the penis are also seen as a risk factor for penile cancer. Studies show a three-fold increase in the development of carcinoma in the scarred penile tissues after an injury or a tear.
Ultraviolet radiation: Men who are treated with ultraviolet rays for psoriasis along with the drug psoralen are known to have an increased risk of penile cancer.