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Etiology of penile cancer

The etiological circumstances of penile cancer are now better understood, but still not as well documented as cervical cancer in women.

Risk factors

  • Poor hygiene
  • Phimosis
  • Infections
  • Smoking
  • Many sexual partners

Specific diseases such as Lichen Sclerosus, (undifferentiated PeIN and differentiated PeIN)   are also associated with an increased risk for developing penile cancer. In countries where ritual circumcision of boys is performed, the incidence of penile cancer is low.

The human papilloma virus (HPV), which is a very common sexually transmitted viral infection, seems to play an important role in developing penile cancer (Miralles-Guri 2009). A systematic analysis of published studies shows that HPV is detected in 50% of penile carcinomas in Nordic countries with a low incidence of penile carcinoma. The incidence varies among different histologies.

As in women, the highest incidence of HPV in men is found in the pre-stages and in squamous cell carcinomas of basaloid and chondylomatous types. In half of the HPV positive tumors, HPV 16/18 is detected, which there is a vaccine for. It is therefore assumed that the HPV vaccine will protect against penile carcinomas and precursors, however, this is still not documented by clinical studies.

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