The penis can naturally curve as a man gets older, according to a doctor.
However, while this can be perfectly normal, it can be a sign of a serious disease which has recently been linked to cancer.
Some men have a more bent penis for a harmless reason – the two tubes that fill with blood to give an erection can be different sizes, explained Dr Matthew Mintz from Maryland, US.
And the skin on the organ can affect how curved it appears – and as you get older and your skin gets looser, the curve can look more pronounced.
But a bent penis can be a symptom of a condition known as Peyronie's disease, which is estimated to affect up to seven percent of males.
Researchers recently linked this with a higher risk of various cancers – including testicular, melanoma and stomach – and suggested those with the condition should have screening.
Signs a man has Peyronie's include scar tissue, a significant bend, erection problems and pain.
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'Having a curved penis is common and can change with age, but it can also be a sign of a more serious disease,' Dr Mintz, who teaches at the George Washington University School of Medicine, told lifehacker.
When the penis becomes erect, it's because two tubes called the corpora cavernosa fill up with blood, he explained. And just like women's breasts can be different sizes, so can these two tubes.
The resultant curve may not be too noticeable when a man is flaccid but become more obvious when he is hard.
As we all age, the skin all over our body produces less collagen and as a result, the skin becomes thinner and more fragile and starts to sag. So the natural curve can be more prominent as the skin hangs down looser.
How do you know if it's more serious?
SYMPTOMS OF PEYRONIE'S DISEASE
Peyronie's disease signs and symptoms might appear suddenly or develop gradually. The most common signs and symptoms include:
- Scar tissue. The scar tissue (plaques) associated with Peyronie's disease can be felt under the skin of the penis as flat lumps or a band of hard tissue.
- A significant bend to the penis. Your penis might be curved upward, downward or bent to one side. In some cases, the erect penis might have narrowing, indentations or an hourglass appearance, with a tight, narrow band around the shaft.
- Erection problems. Peyronie's disease might cause problems getting or maintaining an erection (erectile dysfunction).
- Shortening of the penis. Your penis might become shorter as a result of Peyronie's disease.
- Pain. You might have penile pain, with or without an erection.
Source: Mayo Clinic
Peyronie's disease occurs when a scar formation in your penis prevents you from getting a straight erection.
The cause isn't completely understood but it is thought it generally results from an injury to the organ.
For example, the penis might be damaged during sex, athletic activity or as the result of an accident.
During the healing process, scar tissue forms in a disorganized manner, which might then lead to a nodule that you can feel or development of curvature.
It can make sex painful and cause erectile dysfunction.
But in many cases men have no recollection of a specific trauma.
In some, Peyronie's comes on gradually and doesn't seem to be related to an injury.
Researchers therefore suspect it can be related to genes. In some men, injury and genetics could both be involved.
Furthermore, some medications list Peyronie's disease as a possible side effect.
According to the Mayo Clinic, a doctor might recommend a wait-and-see approach if symptoms are not too severe.
But if your symptoms are severe or are worsening over time, he or she might recommend medication or surgery.
A recent study of 1.5million men found Peyronie's disease brought a higher risk of testicular cancer by 40 percent, melanoma by 29 percent and stomach cancer by 40 percent.
Researchers from Texas suggest a gene that may trigger the complaint could also be linked to the development of tumors.
The team from Baylor College in Houston said men with Peyronie's should be closely monitored for cancer in a bid to catch any development early.
Dr Alexander Pastuszak, who led the study, said: 'While they’re significant in the sexual and reproductive life-cycles of these patients, linking them to other disorders suggest that these men should be monitored for development of these disorders disproportionately in contrast to the rest of the population.
'Nobody has made these associations before.'