Doctors are not sure why some people develop penile melanosis. It is simply a buildup of pigment cells within the skin, which can occur in other locations as well.
However, possible risk factors that may increase a person’s chances of developing penile melanosis include:
- Age: While penile melanosis can affect people of any age, it mostly appears between the ages of 15 and 72 years.
- Genetics: There may be a genetic component to penile melanosis.
- Injuries: Previous injury to the penis may play a role, as the formation of scar tissue can lead to hyperpigmentation.
- Certain skin treatments: Treatment with certain drugs, such as anthralin or PUVA therapy, may increase the risk of penile melanosis.
Penile melanosis and lichen sclerosus
Penile melanosis may also have a link to another uncommon skin condition called lichen sclerosus.
Lichen sclerosus causes thin, pale patches of skin, usually in the genitals or hands. A 2017 case study of an older man found an association between the penile melanosis and lichen sclerosus on his penis.
However, this does not mean that one of these conditions causes the other. It simply suggests that there may be a link between them.
Penile melanosis and cancer
Penile melanoma may cause darker spots of skin similar to those of penile melanosis, but typically just on the head of the penis. These may grow, change color, and bleed.
When a doctor diagnoses penile melanosis, they will be sure to rule out the possibility of the lesions being cancerous. Therefore, once they have confirmed their diagnosis, this means that the lesions are not putting the person at risk of cancer.
A person may see a dermatologist at set intervals to monitor the condition and ensure that there are no signs of melanoma. There is no direct evidence that penile melanosis will lead to cancer, however.
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