The role of human papillomavirus infection in the pathogenesis of penile squamous cell carcinomas

Semin Diagn Pathol. 2012 May;29(2):67-71. doi: 10.1053/j.semdp.2011.09.001.


Emerging evidence suggests that penile cancer follows 2 etiologic pathways, 1 related to human papillomavirus (HPV) infection and the other related to other factors including phimosis, chronic inflammation, and lichen sclerosus. HPV DNA is found in 47% to 48% of all penile tumors, and most of these cases correspond to high-risk genotypes, preferentially HPV-16. HPV status is associated with histologic subtype, with higher detection ratios in warty-basaloid carcinomas and lower detection ratios in keratinizing variants (ie, verrucous, papillary, and usual squamous cell carcinomas). It is the cell type, rather than a distinctive architecture, that is more strongly associated with HPV presence. The detection ratio is higher in tumors composed entirely or partially of cells with basaloid features. In addition, a few studies have evaluated the impact of HPV infection on the prognosis of patients with penile cancer. However, results are controversial, and more data are needed to clarify this matter. A proper understanding of the role of HPV in penile carcinogenesis might help in planning intervention strategies such as vaccination against HPV infection.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Carcinoma, Basosquamous / virology*
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / virology*
  • DNA, Viral / analysis
  • Human papillomavirus 16 / genetics
  • Human papillomavirus 16 / isolation & purification*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Papillomavirus Infections / complications*
  • Penile Neoplasms / virology*


  • DNA, Viral