Many men notice a bad odor coming from their penis.

Cancer can affect the penis and has a high mortality rate.

If a man begins detecting a smell from his penis, the first thing that should come to his mind is that the odor is most likely being caused by poor hygiene.

If the genital area is “sweaty and yeasty in the skin fold,” as may happen in obese men, then this can produce an unpleasant odor, says Dana Rice, MD, a board certified urologist and creator of the UTI Tracker mobile app, which helps patients catalog daily urinary tract symptoms, medication and behavioral patterns, and offers personalized tips for UTI prevention.

Dr. Rice adds, “Uncircumcised men who cannot retract the foreskin or who don’t properly clean the foreskin can have a buildup of smegma that can have an odor. That is again a hygiene issue more than anything.”

Some men notice a fishy smell to their penis. A fishy odor to the penis has a cause or two. But cancer is not one of them.

But is there any circumstance under which cancer of the penis can directly cause any kind of abnormal smell – at least one that the man can detect?

“There is no cancer smell to a penis,” says Dr. Rice. “If you have dead or dying tissue (which can happen with cancer), that has a smell,” says Dr. Rice, “but if someone has that, they usually have a huge necrotic [dead] cancerous mass.

“That is not subtle; think large, like head of broccoli on a penis is how I have seen it present.”

Cancer of the penis, however, can result in a discharge – and this discharge can have an odor.

But the actual tumor itself does not have any kind of odor that the human nose can detect.

Signs of Penile Cancer

The symptoms that cancer of the penis cause are more likely to have much less serious causes.

However, you should see a doctor immediately so that a diagnosis can be made promptly.

Skin Changes

• Increased thickness

• Change in color

• Visible lump

• Area of bleeding without explanation

• Reddish rash beneath the foreskin

• Crusty small bumps

• Flat blue-brown growths

Swelling and Lumps

• Swelling would appear at the end of the organ.

• Lumps may appear beneath the skin in the groin area (swollen lymph nodes). They may be swollen due to the actual migrated cancer cells themselves or from an infection caused by the tumor.

If you’re worried about penis cancer, it’s useless to sniff it for any kind of smell.

Instead, use your eyes and take a good look at this organ on a regular basis to check for anything that shouldn’t be there.

Plus, use your fingers to make sure there are no new lumps.

For more information on the UTI Tracker, go to

Dr. Rice is with Inova Medical Group in Fairfax, VA, and her clinical interests include bladder, kidney and prostate cancer, minimally invasive surgery and robotic surgery.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer. 




­Top image: ©Lorra Garrick