The Curve In Your Penis Might Be a Sign of Cancer
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New research finds a surprising link
Your penis says a lot about your health. While problems getting hard can point to blood flow issues that can put your heart at risk, how your penis looks can be telling, too: Peyronie’s disease—a condition where the formation of scar tissue leads to a curvature of your penis—might increase your risk of certain types of cancer, new research from Baylor College of Medicine suggests.
In the study, researchers analyzed health insurance claims from more than 1.7 million men, some of whom had Peyronie’s disease or erectile dysfunction, and others without any penis problems. Then they followed them up for a total of about nine years.
After that time period, they discovered that men with Peyronie’s disease were 43 percent more likely to develop stomach cancer, 19 percent more likely to get melanoma, and 39 percent more likely to get diagnosed with testicular cancer than the men without any penis problems. There was also a trend toward a greater chance of prostate cancer, too, though it didn’t quite reach statistical significance in their analysis.
Is My Penis Normal?:
Then, the researchers took the data one step further by examining the relationship between the two conditions on a molecular level. They sequenced the entire genetic makeup of a father and son who had Peyronie’s disease and a related condition called Dupuytren’s contracture, which causes an abnormal thickening of tissue in your palm and fingers.
“When we sequenced their genomes, we found they have multiple other mutations that put them at risk for certain types of cancers,” explains study author Alexander Pastuszak, M.D., Ph.D, a urologist at the Baylor College of Medicine. “This gives us additional, much better evidence that these conditions are actually linked.”
The mutations they discovered in the patients are the same ones that have been linked to gastric and genitourinary cancers, including those of the testicles and the prostate. This suggests that there may be an underlying factor triggering both Peyronie’s disease and these kinds of cancers.
So what does that mean for you? First, don’t freak out if you do notice a slight curve in your penis—it doesn’t even necessarily mean you have Peyronie’s disease.
“A slight curve can be normal,” says Dr. Pastuszak. “There is some curvature in all penises.”
There’s no specific degree of curvature that points to Peyronie’s disease, according to the American Urological Association. What’s more telling? If you see a curve that comes on suddenly, or notice that your existing curvature has gotten worse, says Dr. Pastuszak. Noticing those symptoms, especially if they’re making it difficult to have sex or are causing you any kind of distress, warrants a visit to your doctor.
But even if your doctor does diagnose you with Peyronie’s disease, don’t freak out, he says. These findings don’t mean that you’re definitely going to get cancer.
What they should do, though, is make you more vigilant—and proactive—about your own health. That might mean getting more cancer screenings, especially for the kinds listed above that have been linked to Peyronie’s. For instance, if you have Peyronie’s disease, you might want to talk to your doctor about whether you should get regular PSA tests to screen for cancer.
That said, there isn’t any routine screening for other types of cancer linked to Peyronie’s, like stomach cancer. That’s where vigilance comes in: Make yourself aware of the symptoms—which, in the case of stomach cancer, include heartburn, nausea and sense of fullness after eating a small meal—so if you begin to experience them, you can loop in your doc quick. Early detection is often key for beating cancer.
At the very least, the results show how important it is for guys with Peyronie’s to continue their relationship with their doctor even after they’re diagnosed with the curvature.
“It’s worth checking in with your doctor once a year or once every two years, to make sure you’re doing okay,” says Dr. Pastuszak. This will also give you and your doctor the opportunity to discuss which tests or screenings may be beneficial.
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