Alarm as penile cancer hits younger, uncircumcised men in Kenya

Doctors in Kenya are worried over increasing incidence of penile cancer in men in their thirties or even younger.

Normally, penile cancer is a disease of elderly males, however a recent study at Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital, (MTRH), Eldoret, reports the disease in younger men.

“Patients treated for squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) of the penis at MTRH are about 10 years younger than those in developed countries,” says Dr Edward Lumadede Mugalo

Dr Mugalo, of the department of surgery at Moi University had analyzed data of all patients presenting with penile cancer at the hospital for a 10-year period.

“This is a rare disease but mainly affecting elderly men,” says Dr Mugalo in his report published this month (August 2021) in the East African Medical Journal.

During the period 41 patients were treated for penile cancer at MTRH aged from 31 to 79 years. The average age was 51 years.

Common risk factors, Dr Mugalo says was not being circumcised, HIV positive, a smoker and being poor.

“Of these patients, 81.6 percent (31) were not circumcised, a similar number was HIV positive while 70 percent were smokers,” says the study.

Removal of the whole penis or part of it, called penectomy, was the most common treatment because many of the cases presented at advanced disease stages.

An earlier study at Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH) by Prof George Magoha, currently the Cabinet Secretary for Education, had found the disease to affect even younger men.

“We found the disease to occur in younger men with a mean age of 48 years, most who presented with advanced disease,” wrote Prof Magoha in the same journal.

The majority of patients in this, like the MTRH study had penectomy and local excision followed by radiotherapy.

Prof Magoha, a top urologists in Kenya had analyzed 55 patients with penile cancer seen at KNH for a 30-year period.

The mean age of the patients was 47.9 years with a peak incidence between 40–61-year age groups, which is much younger than in developed countries.

Similar to the MTRH study, the KNH findings also suggest not being circumcised may be a risk factor for developing penile cancer.

“The majority of patients 40 or 72.7 per cent in this study were uncircumcised,” said the study but with a rider.

Being circumcised in adolescence or adulthood, Prof Magoha study suggests does not prevent penile cancer, but being cut at infancy is protective.

By Gatonye Gathura

About Gatonye Gathura 125 Articles
Science Journalist

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