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Current HPV Vaccines May Help Prevent Penile Cancers


There is an available HPV vaccine (Gardasil and Cervarix) for the sexually transmitted human papillomavirus (HPV) which causes cervical cancer. It turns out it may also be effective treatment in preventing penile tumors as the same virus is to blame for half of all cases of penile cancer.

Dr. Silvia de Sanjose and colleagues from the Catalan Institute of Oncology in Barcelona reviewed cases of penile cancer reported in clinical studies between 1986 and 2008.

They reviewed 1466 penile carcinoma samples. Of these, 46.9% were associated with HPV. The HPV subtypes included HPV-16 (60.23%), HPV-18 (13.35%), HPV 6/11 (8.13%), HPV-31 (1.16%), HPV-45 (1.16%), HPV-33 (0.97%), HPV-52 (0.58%), and other types (2.47%).

The most HPV-related histological types of penile cancers were basaloid and warty squamous cell carcinomas (SCC), but keratinizing and non-keratinizing subtypes also showed prevalence rates of around 50%.

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While penile carcinoma is uncommon, accounting for less than 1 percent of adult male cancers in Europe and North America, it is potentially mutilating. The incidence can be as high as 10 percent in parts of Africa and Asia. Worldwide, there are more than 26,000 new cases every year.

About half of the penile tumors were associated to HPV 16/18 with little presence of other genotypes. These are the two types of HPV that most commonly cause cervical cancer and which are targeted by Merck & Co's Gardasil and GlaxoSmithKline's Cervarix.

Penile cancer starts on the glans (head), or tip, of the penis and spreads from there. Although it may not mean cancer, any abnormalities of the penis should be reported to your doctor as soon as possible. Penile cancer symptoms may include:

* A wart-like growth or lesion
* An open sore that won't heal
* A reddish rash
* Persistent, smelly discharge under the foreskin

Carles Miralles-Guri, Laia Bruni, Antonio Cubilla, Xavier Castellsague, Francesc Xavier Bosch, and Silvia De Sanjose
HPV prevalence and type distribution in penile carcinoma; J. Clin. Pathol., Aug 2009; doi:10.1136/jcp.2008.063149
MD Anderson (for more information on penile cancer)