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Penile cancer

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Risk reduction strategies for penile cancer

Risk reduction is taking action to lower one’s risk of developing cancer. The following risk reduction strategies may reduce the chance of developing penile cancer.

Practise good genital hygiene

Uncircumcised men should practise good genital hygiene to help prevent penile cancer. It is usually recommended that uncircumcised men pull back (retract) the foreskin and clean the entire penis. Usually the foreskin is not fully retractable until a boy is 3–5 years old, or sometimes not until puberty. Never force the foreskin back, but when it is fully retractable, males should 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 retraction easier.

Reduce exposure to human papillomavirus (HPV)

HPV is a risk factor for penile cancer. The only sure way to prevent HPV infection is to completely avoid any genital contact with another person. If you are young, delay having sex. If you are sexually active, you can reduce your risk of exposure to HPV by:

  • limiting the number of sexual partners you have
  • being in a monogamous relationship with someone who has had limited 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. Areas not covered by a condom still allow some skin-to-skin contact during sex. So using condoms will reduce, but not eliminate, the risk of HPV infection.

Consider getting vaccinated against HPV

HPV vaccines are available in Canada. These vaccines help protect against infection with HPV-16 and HPV-18, the 2 types of HPV most commonly associated with cancer.

These vaccines help lower the risk of HPV-related cancers, including cervical cancer. They may also reduce the risk of other cancers linked to HPV, including penile cancer. There is some evidence that Gardasil may help prevent precancerous conditions of the penis and penile cancer associated with HPV infection, although it is not currently approved for this use. Gardasil also protects against HPV-6 and HPV-11, which cause 90% of genital warts.

Talk to your doctor about getting vaccinated against HPV.

Be a non-smoker and avoid second-hand smoke

Do not smoke and avoid second-hand smoke to reduce the risk of penile cancer. If you smoke, get help to quit.

More information about reducing cancer risk

Learn about what you can do to reduce cancer risk.


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