Dear Dr G,
I am a 30-year-old man who is generally healthy. My problem is that I noticed something strange happening to my penis in the last six months.
Initially, I thought the discolouration of the skin of my penis is the figment of my imagination. Sadly, the skin on the whole shaft of my manhood is just getting darker.
I hope to put Dr G on the spot this week - can you tell me why the skin on my penis is generally darker than the rest of my skin.
Is discolouration of the penile skin due to anything serious such as skin cancer? Can it be due to too much sexual activities?
I heard there is laser treatment available to whiten the penile skin. What is your opinion about it? Any risks?
Looking forward to Dr G’s opinion about the changing shades of my manhood.
The observation that the colour of the penile skin is darker than the rest of the body is not one's figment of imagination.
In fact, such phenomenon is not even racial or gender-specific. Regardless of being a Caucasian, African-Caribbean or an Asian, the colour of the external genitalia and nipples are naturally darker.
Similarly, such heavy pigmentation of the skin is also visible in the labia of women.
When an adolescent male or female goes through puberty, the body will produce excess sex hormones - androgen and estrogen - to generate secondary sexual characteristics.
Physiologically, the excess levels of such hormones in the genital respond to melanocytes, the skin cells that cause pigmentation.
The physiological interactions usually result in darker penile, groin and scrotal skin in men.
Besides the natural pigmentation of the skin around the penis, other causes of discolouration may include frictional trauma or inflammation.
A skin condition called post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH) can result in pigmented skin of the manhood over a short period of time becoming darker.
This may be the result of excessive friction following sexual intercourse or masturbation.
Of course, what constitutes “excessive” sexual friction that results in PIH is open to interpretation, and impossible to be proven by scientific studies.
However, decreasing sexual encounters may or may not restore skin colour.
Apart from excessive pigmentation that may be naturally induced by sex hormones, other reasons for discolouration of the penis may be due to vitiligo and melanoma.
The former is a dermatological complaint in which the melanocytes undergo destruction, causing white patches of skin.
Melanoma, on the other hand, is skin cancer that may also appear in the penis, usually associated with ulceration, bleeding and pain.
The natural skin colour change of the genitalia has generally, no threat to health.
Men who are distressed by the shady changes of their manhood may sort treatment purely for aesthetic improvement.
Medications such as Retinol, laser resurfacing or even microdermabrasion have been attempted to restore or even bleach the pigmented skin.
Certain hospitals in Thailand have attracted media attention for providing penile whitening procedure.
Critics say such obsession with whiteness may perpetuate racism; others celebrate the freedom of choice, even for the vanity of manhood.
In the medical viewpoint, such intervention carries minimal risks. However, the recipient of the laser therapy may end up with skin irritation or even unsightly uneven whitening of the skin.
Financial journalist BC Forbes, who founded Forbes Magazine, once said: “A shady business never yields a sunny life.”
When Dr G is put on the spot about the whitening of penile skin, his response is: “Don’t be tempted by the shady business of altering the many shades of manhood, as the manhood should not yield a sunny life anyway!”
For those who are still tempted, I wish you best of luck and may your desired shades be with you!
> The views expressed are entirely the writer’s own.
Dr George Lee is a consultant Urologist and Clinical Associate Professor whose professional interest is in men’s health. The column “Ask Dr G” is a forum to help men debunk the myths and taboos on men’s issues that may be too “hard” to mention. You can send him questions at firstname.lastname@example.org