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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
  • smoke
  • 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

  • stop smoking

  • 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.