Penile cancer

You are here: 

Benign conditions of the penis

Benign conditions of the penis are non-cancerous conditions that can affect the penis. Most benign conditions of the penis affect the glans (head or glans penis) and foreskin, but they may also affect the shaft. Genital warts are the most common benign condition of the penis.

Genital warts

Genital warts (condylomata) are a common benign condition of the penis. They are a common type of sexually transmitted infection caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). They are also called condyloma acuminata or venereal warts.

Risk factors

The following risk factors may increase a person’s chance of developing genital warts:

  • history of HPV infection
  • multiple sexual partners
  • sexually active at an early age
  • weakened immune system

Signs and symptoms

The signs and symptoms of genital warts may include:

  • gray or flesh-coloured growths that may have a cauliflower appearance
    • These can occur anywhere on the penis, the nearby perineal skin or the anus.
    • They vary in size from microscopic to several centimetres.
    • They are usually painless, but may have a discharge and be itchy.
    • They may bleed.
    • They can make urination difficult if they block part of the opening of the urethra (meatus).
  • higher than normal amount of dampness in the genital area
  • itchiness

It is not always obvious when a person has genital warts. Even if the genital warts are not obvious, they may still be contagious.


If the signs and symptoms of genital warts are present, or if the doctor suspects genital warts, tests will be done to make a diagnosis. Tests may include:

  • acetowhitening
    • A 5% acetic acid solution is applied to the growth for 5–10 minutes. Areas containing genital warts will turn white.
  • biopsy
  • HPV testing


Treatment options for genital warts may include:

  • cryosurgery
  • laser surgery
  • curettage and electrodessication
  • topical cream
    • podophyllin (Pod-Ben-25, Podofin)
    • podofilox (Condylox)
    • trichloroacetic acid or bichloracetic acid
    • 5-fluoruracil (Adrucil, 5-FU)
  • topical biological therapy cream
    • imiquimod (Aldara)
    • interferon
  • surgery

human papillomavirus (HPV)

A type of virus that causes abnormal tissue growth (warts) and other changes to cells.

There are over 100 types of HPV. Most types of HPV cause harmless warts on the hands, fingers, feet and even the face. Some types of HPV cause genital warts, are associated with an increased risk of cervical cancer and may play a role in cancers of the anus, vagina, vulva, penis and oropharynx.


A procedure that uses a curette (a spoon-shaped instrument with a sharp edge) to remove cells, tissues or growths from the wall of a body cavity or other surfaces.


Researcher Dr John Bell Fighting cancer with designer viruses

Read more

How can you stop cancer before it starts?

It's My Life! icon

Discover how your lifestyle choices can affect cancer risk and how you can take action with our interactive tool – It’s My Life!

Learn more