TUESDAY, Aug. 25, 2009 (HealthDay News) -- The human papillomavirus (HPV) causes about half of penile cancer cases in the world, and giving vaccines to males could greatly reduce the incidence of the disease, a new study suggests.
Penile cancer remains rare, accounting for less than 1 percent of adult male cancers in North America and Europe, but that rate jumps to as high as 10 percent in Africa and Asia, according to Spanish researchers reporting online Aug. 25 in the Journal of Clinical Pathology. More than 26,300 cases of penile cancer are thought to occur around the world each year.
HPV -- best known for its link to cervical cancer in women -- is also thought to cause anal and penile cancers in men. In their study, the Spanish scientists at the Catalan Institute of Oncology in Barcelona reviewed 31 studies on penile cancer published over the last three decades.
They found that HPV was involved in nearly 47 percent of the 1,466 cases of penile cancer covered by the studies, with nearly 58 percent of the tumors in North American patients linked to the virus. Two strains -- HPV 16 and 18 -- accounted for nearly three-quarters of these HPV-linked cases, the researchers found.
Those two strains are the prime target of the HPV vaccines currently recommended to prevent cervical cancer, and "although penile carcinoma is a rare disease, around 7,000 cases would be prevented annually by the eradication of HPV-16/18," the authors concluded.
Find out more about penile cancer at the American Cancer Society.