Penile cancer

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Reducing your risk for penile cancer

You may lower your risk of developing penile cancer by doing the following.

Get vaccinated against human papillomavirus (HPV)

HPV is a risk factor for penile cancer. The 3 HPV vaccines available in Canada are Gardasil, Cervarix and Gardasil 9. These vaccines help protect against infection with HPV-16 and HPV-18, the 2 types of HPV most commonly associated with cancer. Gardasil 9 also protects against 5 other types of HPV that can cause cancer.

These vaccines help lower the risk for HPV-related cancers, such as cervical cancer. They may also lower the risk for other cancers linked to HPV, including penile cancer. There is some evidence that Gardasil and Gardasil 9 may help prevent precancerous conditions of the penis and penile cancer associated with HPV infection, although they are not currently approved for this use.

Get vaccinated or have your children vaccinated through school-based programs where available. If you are not eligible for a free vaccination, talk to your doctor about which vaccine is right for you and when you should have it.

Reduce your exposure to HPV

If you are sexually active, you can lower your risk of exposure to HPV by:

  • having as few sexual partners as possible
  • being in a monogamous relationship with someone who hasn’t had a lot of sexual partners
  • using a condom

Using a condom can reduce the risk of HPV infection if it is put on before skin-to-skin sexual contact. However, areas not covered by a condom still allow some skin-to-skin contact during sex. So using condoms will lower, but not eliminate, the risk for HPV infection.

Practise good genital hygiene

Uncircumcised men should practise good genital hygiene to help prevent penile cancer. Doctors usually recommend that uncircumcised men pull back (retract) the foreskin and clean the entire penis. Usually the foreskin is not fully retractable until a boy is about 6 years old, or sometimes not until puberty. Never force the foreskin back. When it is fully retractable, wash underneath it each day.

If the foreskin is tight and difficult to pull back, a doctor may be able to cut some of the skin to make it easier to clean underneath.

Be a non-smoker and avoid smokeless tobacco

If you smoke or use other forms of tobacco, get help to quit to lower your risk for penile cancer.

Find out if you’re at high risk for penile cancer

Some people can have a higher than average risk for penile cancer. Talk to your doctor about your risk. If you are at higher than average risk, you may need to visit your doctor more often to check for penile cancer.

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