Non-cancerous conditions of the penis

A non-cancerous (benign) condition of the penis is a change to cells of the penis, but it is not cancer. Non-cancerous conditions do not spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body and are not usually life-threatening.

Most benign conditions of the penis affect the glans (head) and foreskin, but they may also affect the shaft. Genital warts are the most common non-cancerous condition of the penis.

Genital warts

Genital warts (condylomata) are a common non-cancerous condition of the penis. They are a common type of sexually transmitted infection caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). They are also called condyloma acuminata or venereal warts.

Risk factors

The following risk factors may increase your chance of developing genital warts:

  • history of HPV infection
  • multiple sexual partners
  • sexually active at an early age
  • weakened immune system


The signs and symptoms of genital warts include growths that may look like cauliflowers that are grey, white or the same colour as your skin. These can happen anywhere on the penis, the nearby perineal skin or the anus. They vary in size from microscopic (tiny) to a few centimetres and are usually painless but may have a discharge and be itchy. They may bleed, and they can make it hard to urinate if they block part of the opening of the urethra.

Other signs and symptoms include:

  • higher than normal amount of dampness in the genital area
  • itchiness

It is not always obvious when a person has genital warts. You might not be able to see or feel them. But even if the genital warts are not obvious, they may still be contagious (can spread from one person to another).


If you have symptoms or your doctor thinks you might have genital warts, tests will be done to make a diagnosis. Tests may include:

  • acetowhitening – an acid solution is applied to the growth for 5 to 10 minutes, and areas containing genital warts turn white
  • biopsy
  • HPV testing


Treatment options for genital warts include:

  • cryosurgery
  • laser surgery
  • curettage and electrodesiccation
  • topical drug therapy – topical means the drug is put directly onto the skin with a cream or gel
  • surgery

Expert review and references

  • American Cancer Society. Penile Cancer. 2015:
  • DiPetra EA . Bowenoid papulosis. WebMD LLC; 2010.
  • Stoppler MC . Genital warts (HPV infection). eMedicine, Inc; 2010.
  • Zieve D & Storck S . Genital warts. National Cancer Institute & National Library of Medicine. MedlinePlus: Trusted Health Information For You: Medical Encyclopedia. Bethesda, MD: National Cancer Institute & National Library of Medicine; 2011.

Medical disclaimer

The information that the Canadian Cancer Society provides does not replace your relationship with your doctor. The information is for your general use, so be sure to talk to a qualified healthcare professional before making medical decisions or if you have questions about your health.

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