Smegma: Wikis


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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

This article is about smegma, a secretion of mammalian genitals. See Vernix caseosa for the substance that covers the skin of a baby at birth. See Smegma (band) for the experimental noise band.

Smegma (Greek smēgma, "soap")[1] is a combination of exfoliated (shed) epithelial cells, transudated skin oils, and moisture. It occurs in both male and female genitalia. In males, smegma helps keep the glans moist and facilitates sexual intercourse by acting as a lubricant.[2][3][4]


Human smegma

Both males and females produce smegma. In males, smegma is produced and accumulates under the foreskin; in females, it collects around the clitoris and in the folds of the labia minora (also called the clitoral hood).


Glands that are located around the clitoris and the vulva secrete sebum. The accumulation of sebum combined with dead skin cells forms smegma. Smegma clitoridis is defined as the secretion of the apocrine glands of the clitoris, in combination with desquamating epithelial cells[5]


Smegma can accumulate on a penis.

Smegma was originally thought to be produced by sebaceous glands near the frenulum called Tyson's glands; however, subsequent studies have failed to find these glands.[6] Wright states that smegma is produced from minute microscopic protrusions of the mucosal surface of the foreskin and that living cells constantly grow towards the surface, undergo fatty degeneration, separate off, and form smegma.[2] Parkash et al. found that smegma contains 26.6% fats and 13.3% proteins, which they judged to be consistent with necrotic epithelial debris.[6] Newly produced smegma has a smooth, moist texture. It is thought to be rich in squalene[7] and contain prostatic and seminal secretions, desquamated epithelial cells, and the mucin content of the urethral glands of Littré.[4] Some state that it contains anti-bacterial enzymes such as lysozyme and hormones such as androsterone,[3][4] though others dispute this.[8]

According to Wright, little smegma is produced during childhood, although the foreskin may contain sebaceous glands. She also says that production of smegma increases from adolescence until sexual maturity when the function of smegma for lubrication assumes its full value, and from middle-age production starts to decline and in old age virtually no smegma is produced.[2] Oster reported that the incidence of smegma increased from 1% among 6-7 year olds to 8% among 16-17 year olds (an overall incidence of 5%).[9]

One study found that subjects who retracted the foreskin when bathing were less likely to have smegma accumulation.[10] An early study by Plaut and Kohn-Speyer (1947)[11] found that horse smegma had a carcinogenic effect on mice. Heins et al.(1958)[12] used human smegma on mice and found a carcinogenic effect, but Reddy and Baruah (1963) were unable to reproduce this effect, concluding that if a carcinogenic effect did exist, it must be weak. In other more recent studies, smegma was found to be a risk factor among penile cancer patients.[13][14] However, the American Cancer Society says that smegma itself is probably not carcinogenic,[15] and a recent review concluded that "the evidence does not support the theory that smegma is a cause of genital cancer. "[3]

In other mammals

In healthy animals, smegma helps clean and lubricate the genitals. In veterinary medicine, analysis of this smegma is sometimes used for detection of urogenital tract pathogens, such as Tritrichomonas foetus.[16] Accumulation of smegma in the equine preputial folds and the urethral fossa and urethral diverticulum can form large "beans" and promote the carriage of Taylorella equigenitalis, the causative agent of contagious equine metritis.[17] Some equine veterinarians have recommended periodic cleaning of male genitals to improve the health of the animal.[18]


  1. ^ "Websters dictionary definition for smegma". Mirriam-Webster. Retrieved 2008-08-26. 
  2. ^ a b c Wright, Joyce (September 1970). "How smegma serves the penis: Nature's assurance that the uncircumcised glans penis will function smoothly is provided by smegma.". Sexology (New York) 37 (2): 50–53. 
  3. ^ a b c Van Howe, RS; FM Hodges (October 2006). "The carcinogenicity of smegma: debunking a myth". Journal of the European academy of dermatology and venereology 20 (9): 1046–1054. doi:10.1111/j.1468-3083.2006.01653.x. PMID 16987256. 
  4. ^ a b c Fleiss, P.M.; F.M. Hodges, R.S. Van Howe (October 1998). "Immunological functions of the human prepuce" (PDF). Sexually transmitted infections 74 (5): 364–367. doi:10.1136/sti.74.5.364. PMID 10195034. 
  5. ^ "Medical Dictionary". Medilexicon. 
  6. ^ a b Parkash, Satya; K. Jeyakumar, K. Subramanya, S. Chaudhuri (August 1973). "Human subpreputial collection: its nature and formation". Journal of urology 110 (2): 211–212. PMID 4722614. 
  7. ^ O'Neill, H.J.; L.L. Gershbein (1976). "Lipids of human and equine smegma". Oncology 33 (4): 161–166. PMID 1018879. 
  8. ^ Waskett JH, Morris BJ (January 2008). "Re: 'RS Van Howe, FM Hodges. The carcinogenicity of smegma: debunking a myth.' An example of myth and mythchief making?" (pdf). J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol 22 (1): 131; author reply 131–2. doi:10.1111/j.1468-3083.2007.02439.x. PMID 18182000. 
  9. ^ Oster J (April 1968). "Further fate of the foreskin. Incidence of preputial adhesions, phimosis, and smegma among Danish schoolboys". Arch. Dis. Child. 43 (228): 200–3. doi:10.1136/adc.43.228.200. PMID 5689532. 
  10. ^ Krueger, H.; L. Osborn (1986). "Effects of hygiene among the uncircumcised". J Fam Pract 22 (4): 353–355. PMID 3958682. 
  11. ^ Plaut A, Kohn-Speyer AC (April 1947). "The Carcinogenic Action of Smegma". Science (journal) 105 (2728): 391–392. doi:10.1126/science.105.2728.391-a. PMID 17841584. 
  12. ^ Heins, Henry C.; E. J. Dennis, H. R. Pratt-Thomas (February 1 to 5, 1958). "The possible role of smegma in carcinoma of the cervix". Twentieth annual meeting of the South Atlantic Association of Obstetrictans and Gynecologists. Hollywood, Florida. 
  13. ^ Brinton LA, Li JY, Rong SD, et al. (February 1991). "Risk factors for penile cancer: results from a case-control study in China". International journal of cancer. Journal international du cancer 47 (4): 504–9. doi:10.1002/ijc.2910470406. PMID 1995481. 
  14. ^ Maden C, Sherman KJ, Beckmann AM, et al. (January 1993). "History of circumcision, medical conditions, and sexual activity and risk of penile cancer". Journal of the National Cancer Institute 85 (1): 19–24. doi:10.1093/jnci/85.1.19. PMID 8380060. 
  15. ^ "Risk Factors for Penile Cancer". American Cancer Society. July 2008. Retrieved 2008-09-22. "Although it hasn't been proven, some experts are concerned that smegma may also contain compounds that can cause cancer. Also, some older studies have suggested a link between smegma and penile cancer. Although, smegma probably doesn't cause penile cancer by itself, it can cause the penis to become irritated and inflamed, and may make it harder to see very early cancers. Men can prevent smegma from building up simply by washing the penis with the foreskin retracted." 
  16. ^ Chen, X.G.; J. Li (2001). "Increasing the sensitivity of PCR detection in bovine preputial smegma spiked with Tritrichomonas foetus by the addition of agar and resin". Parasitol Res 87 (7): 556–558. PMID 11484853. 
  17. ^ Primary Industries Ministerial Council of Australia and New Zealand (2002). Disease strategy: Contagious equine metritis (Version 1.0). In: Australian Veterinary Emergency Plan (AUSVETPLAN), Edition 3, PIMCANZ, Canberra, ACT.
  18. ^ Michael Lowder (September 1, 2001). "A Clean Sheath Is A Healthy Sheath". Horse City. Retrieved on September 4, 2008.


Up to date as of January 15, 2010
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Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary




From Latin from Ancient Greek σμῆγμα (smēgma), alternative spelling of σμῆμα (smēma), soap, detergent) from σμάω (smaō), I wipe, clean).


  • enPR: smĕgʹmə, IPA: /ˈsmɛgmə/, SAMPA: /"smEgm@/


Wikipedia has an article on:




smegma (uncountable)

  1. A whitish sebaceous secretion that collects between the glans penis and foreskin or in the vulva.




  • smegma” in the Online Etymology Dictionary, Douglas Harper, 2001 [1]




smegma m.

  1. smegma

Derived terms


  • Nouveau Petit Larousse illustré. Dictionnaire encyclopédique. Paris, Librairie Larousse, 1952, 146th edition


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