Penile cancer is a rare form of a disease, which targets the skin around the penis before eating its way further inside. While it typically affects men over the age of 50, there are cases where younger adults have also been diagnosed.

Most recently, a 25-year-old father from Newcastle, UK made headlines when he spoke about his experience with the disease and how it prevented him from having sex. Dale Clarke’s symptoms started with a lump at the tip of his penis, which later grew to the size of a grape.

At this point he visited doctors who diagnosed his condition as penile cancer. Since then, he has undergone five operations, nine bouts of radiotherapy and two rounds of chemotherapy, none of which has been successful in removing the cancer.

“It’s absolutely destroyed me as a person. I struggle to walk to the toilet and my penis has no use other than to try and urinate from it,” Clarke told The Daily Mail. “It has no feeling. The cancer is busy eating away around it so I will probably lose it altogether soon.”

WebMD states that in the US, 2,100 men are diagnosed with penile cancer each year.

Types of penile cancer

The type of cancer depends on the type of cell it began growing from. Most commonly, it is identified as squamous cell penile cancer, which starts in the cells that cover the surface of the penis.

Another form of squamous cell cancer — carcinoma in situ (CIS) targets only the skin of the penis without affecting the tissue deeper inside.

Adenocarcinoma is a form of penile cancer that starts in the glandular cells of the penis that produce sweat.

Melanoma of the penis is a result of the cancer developing in the skin cells that are responsible for giving it its color.


While experts are yet to understand the main causes of penile cancer, they believe that some factors might put a man at higher risk for the disease.

They believe that the human papillomavirus (HPV) may increase chances of developing cancer. HPV is more common among men who have not been circumcised.

Phimosis, a condition in which the foreskin of the penis cannot be pulled back over the glans — can also contribute to the problem.

Personal hygiene is very important. Men who do not clean their penis and foreskin regularly allow for germs to grow which can then cause cancerous infections.

Smoking and use of tobacco products reportedly increases the chances of developing penile cancer.


The symptoms of penile cancer may look very similar to those of other infections and it is better to visit a doctor to identify the cause.

The American Cancer Society notes that early symptoms can best be detected through changes in the condition of skin of the penis.

This is most likely to be on the glans of the penis or on the foreskin, but it can also be on the shaft.

The area could become thicker and/or change color.

A lump may form on the penis or foreskin.

The area could also develop an ulcer (sore) that might bleed.

A reddish, velvety rash may form.

Small, crusty bumps or flat, bluish-brown growths may be seen in the region.

Smelly discharge (fluid) under the foreskin may form from infection.