Penis cancer, though rare, is on the rise with experts predicting a significant increase by 2050. While developing countries historically have had the highest rates, European countries are also seeing a rise in cases. One of the main risk factors for penis cancer is age, with individuals over 50 being more susceptible. Additionally, factors such as a narrowed foreskin, poor genital hygiene, and smoking tobacco can contribute to the development of this type of cancer.

Squamous cells in the skin of the penis are responsible for over 90% of penis cancers. Human papillomaviruses (HPV) have been identified in about half of squamous cell cancer cases. HPV, which spreads through skin contact, is a common sexually transmitted infection. While most infections do not cause symptoms and can disappear over time, persistent infections can lead to pre-malignant changes in the skin of the penis. HPV 16, the most common high-risk type, has been linked to malignant changes in penile tissues.

Diagnosing penis cancer can be challenging as patients may delay seeking medical attention due to guilt or embarrassment. Self-medication with creams is common among men who experience symptoms but avoid seeing a doctor. Furthermore, delays in diagnosis can occur when doctors misclassify lesions as benign. Early detection is crucial as it can significantly impact the chances of a successful treatment outcome. Treatment options may include surgical removal of cancerous tissue, chemotherapy, or radiotherapy. In some cases, amputation of the penis may be necessary, although it is always considered a last resort.

New Treatment Approaches

Though the prognosis for penis cancer can be grim, there is hope on the horizon. New approaches, such as the use of engineered T cells to target HPV-infected cells, and immunotherapies like tislelizumab, have shown promise in treating squamous cell tumors. These innovative treatments offer new possibilities for patients facing this rare but potentially deadly form of cancer.


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