Cancer of the penis, which is relatively common in many parts of the world, is rare in the United States, possibly due to Americans' careful personal hygiene and the widespread practice of male circumcision. The American Cancer Society estimates that about 1,200 new cases of penile cancer will be diagnosed in the United States this year, occurring in about 1 man out of 100,000.
The penis has several types of tissue that contain cells that can develop cancer. The majority of penile cancers develop from skin cells called squamous cells - a nonmelanoma form of skin cancer. When detected early, this type of cancer can be cured. While squamous cell cancers can develop anywhere on the penis, most appear on the foreskin in men who have not been circumcised or on the glans - the head of the penis. Verrucous carcinoma is an uncommon form of squamous cell cancer that can develop on male or female genitals. While it can spread into surrounding tissues, it rarely metastasizes. Adenocarcinoma is a very rare type of penile cancer developing in the sweat glands in the skin of the penis but it can spread to the lymph nodes.