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Am Fam Physician. 2010 Jan 15;81(2):167-74.

Noninfectious penile lesions.

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  • 1Department of Urologic Sciences, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.


Family physicians commonly diagnose and manage penile cutaneous lesions. Noninfectious lesions may be classified as inflammatory and papulosquamous (e.g., psoriasis, lichen sclerosus, angiokeratomas, lichen nitidus, lichen planus), or as neoplastic (e.g., carcinoma in situ, invasive squamous cell carcinoma). The clinical presentation and appearance of the lesions guide the diagnosis. Psoriasis presents as red or salmon-colored plaques with overlying scales, often with systemic lesions. Lichen sclerosus presents as a phimotic, hypopigmented prepuce or glans penis with a cellophane-like texture. Angiokeratomas are typically asymptomatic, well-circumscribed, red or blue papules, whereas lichen nitidus usually produces asymptomatic pinhead-sized, hypopigmented papules. The lesions of lichen planus are pruritic, violaceous, polygonal papules that are typically systemic. Carcinoma in situ should be suspected if the patient has velvety red or keratotic plaques of the glans penis or prepuce, whereas invasive squamous cell carcinoma presents as a painless lump, ulcer, or fungating irregular mass. Some benign lesions, such as psoriasis and lichen planus, can mimic carcinoma in situ or squamous cell carcinoma. Biopsy is indicated if the diagnosis is in doubt or neoplasm cannot be excluded. The management of benign penile lesions usually involves observation or topical corticosteroids; however, neoplastic lesions generally require surgery.

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