A Look Into Six Common Benign Growths On The Penis

Last updated: 2023-12-15

Any growth on the penis is problematic because the penis is a genitourinary organ that serves three purposes: reproduction, excretion of wastes, and pleasure. A great concern, especially among those who are sexually active, is whether the lesion is a symptom of a sexually transmitted infection (STI).

Benign lumps differ in size, shape, consistency, and distribution. They may be fleshy, nodule, plaque, cyst-like, or pimple-like. Growths can be confined to the prepuce, glans, the rim of the glans penis, distributed along the shaft, or beneath the skin.

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Differentiating benign and malignant penile lumps

It’s not unusual for males to experience penile lumps multiple times during their lifetime. While most are benign, any growth that does not resolve with treatment or continues to grow should be seen by a doctor. Most lesions are painless, but some are painful or itchy.
When in doubt, seek medical attention. Doctors should be able to differentiate malignant lumps like sarcomas and penile cancer from benign lesions. Symptoms, like painful urination, swelling, fixation, enlarged nodes, and bleeding, may accompany these lumps.

Common benign growths

Some common benign lumps look like small raised dots, pimples, cysts, or warts. They include the following:

1. Pearly penile papules (PPP)

It's unclear why pearly penile papules grow—or why they often appear during the reproductive stage and disappear as one ages. These are anatomical variants and occur in 14–48% of males.
Some characteristics of PPP are:

  • white, cream, pink, or flesh-colored
  • finger-like or smooth dome-shaped growths
  • appear in rows around the rim of the penis
  • don't contain fluid
  • not contagious
  • have no symptoms
PPP can be treated at home with safe-to-use kits or at the doctor's clinic with cryosurgery, laser surgery, or radiosurgery.

2. Fordyce spots

Fordyce spots occur in 95% of adults and can also be seen in females. They’re usually mistaken for PPP or molluscum contagiosum.
They’re associated with oil glands and are:

  • raised bumps that appear yellowish, white, or creamy
  • occur in clusters that are distributed along the shaft or scrotum
  • non-contagious
See a doctor if there are changes in appearance or if the spots develop other symptoms. Like PPP, treatment is for cosmetic purposes and best done as an in-clinic procedure. Treatment for Fordyce spots includes laser treatment with carbon dioxide or pulsed dye.

3. Cysts

Cysts or fluid-filled growths have different causes but are usually harmless. Note that they’re different from bumps caused by sexually transmitted infections.
Some characteristics of cysts are:

  • skin-colored
  • same texture as the skin
  • not painful
  • firm
  • very little change in size
Cysts can be epidermoid, sebaceous, or congenital. Epidermoid cysts are made from skin elements that weren't sloughed off. Sebaceous cysts come from blocked oil glands. Both can get red and inflamed. Congenital cysts, also called median raphe cysts, are benign but can cause urinary problems.
Aside from these three, epidermal inclusion cysts resulting from circumcision are movable lumps that are felt under the skin. They’re harmless but worrisome because they grow in size.
Urinalysis, biopsy, and blood tests can rule out STIs and cancer. Depending on the condition, antibiotics and minor surgery (excision and drainage) are usually effective.
Practicing good hygiene and avoiding vigorous sex help keep the condition from worsening. Under no circumstances should these cysts be burst or picked at.

4. Lymphocoeles

Vigorous sex or masturbation can lead to blockage of the lymph glands causing a lymphocoele to form. The condition goes away on its own and need not be treated.

5. Genital warts (condylomata acuminata)

Genital wart is an STI caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). It occurs in both males and females. In males, it can appear on the whole length of the penis, including the glans. Those infected with HPV 16 and HPV18 may develop cancer.
Genital warts are raised growths with irregular shapes and borders. They must be treated because they’re contagious. The most common treatments are:

  • topical treatments
  • imiquimod, an immune response modifier
  • podofilox, which stops cell division of infected cells
  • sinecatechins, a plant-based treatment
  • trichloroacetic acid, which coagulates the protein of infected cells
  • cryotherapy (cold), which uses liquid nitrogen to freeze the lesions
  • laser ablation, which uses carbon dioxide to coagulate and kill the infected cells
Over-the-counter wart removers shouldn’t be used to treat genital warts because they aren’t supposed to be applied on the genital area.

6. Molluscum contagiosum

Caused by a virus, molluscum contagiosum is firm growth that appears in clusters. It’s not cancerous and is only considered an STI if it’s present in the genital area. It can occur on any part of the body and can infect males, females, and children.
If you have a poor immune system, see a doctor. You’ll be prescribed anti-virals and antibiotics if there is a secondary infection. Though this condition can resolve on its own, males who have it are advised to use a condom during intercourse.

Conclusion

Benign growths on the penis are different in terms of their shape of lesions, color, and distribution. Benign penile growth like pearly papules can be safely and effectively treated at home. Other lesions can be removed for cosmetic reasons using lasers and other modalities, while infectious growths need to be treated appropriately.

Learn more about the PPP KIT


Author: Patrick K.

I earned a Bachelor's degree in Mechanical Engineering from Polytechnique Montreal in 2015. One of my notable achievements during my studies was receiving acclaim for the 'Simplicity of the proposed solution' in a university project. I've always been a 'Do-It-Yourself' type of person, and solving my own pearly penile papules issue was no different. After months of dedicated experimentation with various home remedies for PPP, I developed a safe and effective solution that tackles the problem. The solution has been bundled into the "PPP KIT" and I am happy to share this life changing remedy since 2020!

Reviewed by: Fabiola Garcia

I studied Nursing at the CDI College in Montreal before furthering my education at École Esthétique Avancée, recognized as Quebec's premier private institution for medical aesthetics. I actively contributed to enhancing the safety protocols of the pearly penile papule (PPP) removal procedure by collaborating on the refinement of the 'Aftercare' section within the PPP Kit's step-by-step guide.