Penile cancer risk

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Preventable cases

Penile cancer cases are preventable, UK, 2015



Penile cancer cases caused by infections, UK, 2015


The estimated lifetime risk of being diagnosed with penile cancer is 1 in 493 (less than 1%) for males born after 1960 in the UK.[1]

These figures have been calculated on the assumption that the possibility of having more than one diagnosis of penile cancer over the course of a lifetime is very low (‘Current Probability’ method).[2]

The estimated lifetime risk of being diagnosed with penile cancer is 1 in 493 (less than 1%) for males born after 1960 in the UK


  1. Lifetime risk estimates calculated by the Statistical Information Team at Cancer Research UK. Based on cancer incidence and mortality data provided by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), ISD Scotland, the Welsh Cancer Intelligence and Surveillance Unit and the Northern Ireland Cancer Registry, on request, October 2016 to October 2017, and ONS 2016-based Life expectancies and population projections. Accessed December 2017.
  2. Esteve J, Benhamou E and Raymond L. Descriptive epidemiology. IARC Scientific Publications No.128, Lyon, International Agency for Research on Cancer, pp 67-68 1994. 

About this data

Data is for UK, cancer incidence and mortality rates for 2015, and past and projected all-cause mortality rates for those born in 1961, ICD-10 C60.

The calculations used cancer incidence and mortality rates for 2015, and past and projected all-cause mortality rates for those born in 1961 to project risk over the lifetime of those born in 1961 (mixed period-cohort method).[1] Projections are based on observed incidence and mortality rates and therefore implicitly include changes in cancer risk factors, diagnosis and treatment.

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63% of penile cancer cases in the UK are preventable.[1]

Penile cancer risk is associated with a number of risk factors.[2,3]

Penile Cancer Risk Factors

  Increases risk Decreases risk
'Sufficient' or 'convincing' evidence
  • Human papillomavirus (HPV) type 16
'Limited' or 'Probable' evidence
  • Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) type 1
  • HPV type 18
International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classification. World Cancer Research Fund/American Institute for Cancer Research (WCRF/AICR) classification does not include penile cancer because it is not generally recognised to have a relationship to food, nutrition, and physical activity.

See also

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Find out more about the definitions and evidence for this data

Learn how attributable risk is calculated


  1. Brown KF, Rumgay H, Dunlop C, et al. The fraction of cancer attributable to known risk factors in England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, and the UK overall in 2015. British Journal of Cancer 2018. 
  2. International Agency for Research on Cancer. List of Classifications by cancer sites with sufficient or limited evidence in humans, Volumes 1 to 122*. Accessed September 2018.
  3. World Cancer Research Fund International/American Institute for Cancer Research. Continuous Update Project Findings & Reports. Accessed January 2017.
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International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classifies the role of this risk factor in cancer development.[1] 63% of penile cancer cases in the UK are caused by HPV infection.[2]

Around 45-63% of penile squamous cell carcinomas are HPV-positive, systematic reviews and registry studies have shown; there is some evidence of variation between world regions.[3,4,5] HPV type 16 is the most common type in penile squamous cell carcinomas, followed by HPV types 18 and 6.[3,4,5]

UK portrait version shown here. Country versions, cancers caused by other risk factors, and landscape formats are available for free from our cancer risk publications.

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International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classifies the role of this risk factor in cancer development.[1]

Penile cancer risk is around 4 times as high in people with HIV/AIDS compared with the general population, a meta-analysis showed.[2] This may reflect higher rates of human papillomavirus (HPV) infection in men with HIV.[3]

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Penile cancer risk among men who were not circumcised in childhood is at least 5 times as high in those with a history of phimosis (inability to retract the foreskin over the glans), compared with those without a history of phimosis, case-control studies have shown.[1-4]

Invasive penile carcinoma risk is 67% lower in men circumcised as a child or adolescent, a meta-analysis showed; this is probably partly due to circumcision reducing the risk of phimosis.[5]


  1. Madsen BS, van den Brule AJ, Jensen HL, et al. Risk factors for squamous cell carcinoma of the penis--population-based case-control study in Denmark. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2008 Oct;17(10):2683-91.
  2. Tsen HF, Morgenstern H, Mack T, et al. Risk factors for penile cancer: results of a population-based case-control study in Los Angeles County (United States). Cancer Causes Control. 2001 Apr;12(3):267-77.
  3. Brinton LA, Li JY, Rong SD, Huang S, et al. Risk factors for penile cancer: results from a case-control study in China. Int J Cancer. 1991 Feb 20;47(4):504-9.
  4. Daling JR, Madeleine MM, Johnson LG, et al. Penile cancer: importance of circumcision, human papillomavirus and smoking in in situ and invasive disease. Int J Cancer. 2005 Sep 10;116(4):606-16.
  5. Larke NL, Thomas SL, dos Santos Silva I, et al. Male circumcision and penile cancer: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Cancer Causes Control. 2011 Aug;22(8):1097-110. doi: 10.1007/s10552-011-9785-9.
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