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What is Penile Melanosis ?

What is Penile Melanosis?

Penile melanosis is a harmless condition that is characterized by dark skin in small patches on the penis. These are hyperpigmented patches that occur when melanin forms deposits on the surface layer of the skin.

What is Penile Melanosis?

These patches occur on the shaft and the head of the penis. It is not an infectious condition and does not require any treatment. The patches are large and flat and each one appears alone.

Along with the melanin pigment, it might also acquire other pigment compounds such as:

  • Hemosiderin
  • Lipofuscin
  • Ferrous sulfate

These compounds build up and cause changes in the skin color which are noticeable.

Causes of Penile Melanosis

The exact cause of the occurrence of penile melanosis is not known. It is simply a build-up if pigment cells within the skin.

There are certain risk factors which increase the risk of a person suffering from penile melanosis, which include:

  • Age: Penile melanosis is found occurring more in people between the ages of 15 to 72 years.
  • Genetics: Genetic make may play a role in the risk of developing the condition.(1)
  • Injuries: Hyperpigmentation or forming a scar may also have any previous injury as a cause.
  • Skin treatments: Certain drugs such as anthralin and PUVA therapy might increase the risk of penile melanosis.

Penile melanosis and lichen sclerosis are linked with each other.

Lichen sclerosis leads to thin, pale patches of skin, in hand and penis. A study done on an older man found an association between the two conditions.(2)

Some people also fear penile melanosis could lead to melanoma which is a very rare condition. Penile melanoma might lead to darker spots on the skin similar to penile melanosis. It just occurs on the head of the penis and grows, changes color, and also bleeds.

During the diagnosis, the doctor rules out the possibility of the lesion being cancerous.

Symptoms of Penile Melanosis

Other than the dark patches there are no other symptoms associated with penile melanosis. The patches are:

  • Black or brown in color
  • Under a centimeter in length
  • Occur between the age group of 15-72 years
  • Painless and does not bleed or change over time
  • The patches might occur as a single dark spot or many spots.

Treatment and Removal Of Penile Melanosis

Penile melanosis is a simple build-up of pigment cells. It is not infectious and also does not require any treatment.

If a person feels that the patch on the skin is unsightly or making the sexual partner uncomfortable, he can go ahead with the cosmetic treatment.

Laser Therapy

Laser therapy is done to remove the pigmented lesion or reduce its appearance. This process is time-consuming and the person needs to take multiple sittings.

In some, the patch does not go completely and just gets fainter.


Some people get the spot removed by getting surgery done for it. Surgery involves removing the skin with pigment and grafting new skin to the area.

Healing after the surgery takes time and also leaves scars. A person worried about the appearance might find it unsightly as well.

The procedure is only skin deep and does not affect sexual health or the ability to urinate.

Prevention and Complication Of Penile Melanosis

There is no way penile melanosis can be prevented. It is an unpredictable condition. The change in size or shape should be checked from time to time, as it might signal melanoma, a dangerous form of skin cancer.

There is no complication associated with this condition. It can trigger anxiety and stress.

Penile melanosis is a non-cancerous condition with a good outlook. Also, discoloration of the penis can occur due to various reasons. If noticed, a doctor should be consulted for proper diagnosis and treatment of the condition.

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:December 17, 2019

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