Roughly half of all penile cancers are caused by certain types of a virus called human papillomavirus (HPV).
There are different types of HPV and some affect the genital area.
You can get HPV from:
- any skin-to-skin contact of the genital area
- vaginal, anal or oral sex
- sharing sex toys
Most people affected by HPV will not get penile cancer.
Anyone can get penile cancer, but your chances of getting it may be higher if you:
- are over 50
- have problems pulling back your foreskin (the skin covering your penis) to keep your penis clean (a condition called phimosis)
- have or had treatment for psoriasis with medicines called psoralens and an ultraviolet (UVA) light source (called PUVA treatment)
- have a weakened immune system because of a condition like HIV
You cannot always prevent penile cancer. But you may be able to lower your chances of getting it.
protect yourself from getting HPV by getting the HPV vaccination if you can
use condoms when having any kind of sex, to lower your chances of getting HPV
have a circumcision if this is recommended as treatment for your phimosis
make sure you regularly and thoroughly clean your penis and foreskin
It is important to get any symptoms of penile cancer checked by a GP.
Although it’s rare, anyone can get penile cancer. You can get it even if you do not think you have a higher chance of getting it.