Circumcision has always had a lot of cultural and religious baggage around it, and the last few years saw more of a medical trend against the procedure. I personally didn’t feel that there was much benefit more than fitting a cultural norm, and since the harm and pain outweighed the benefits, I tended not to recommend it. But now there’s a lot of new data showing real health benefits in male circumcision.
The major recent data came from studies in Africa, showing a dramatic decrease (more than 50%) in risk of HIV transmission among circumcised men. That benefit has been repeated and verified in other studies. Now, there are other studies showing additional benefits in decreasing herpes viral infections as well as the HPV virus. These diseases can cause herpes flares as well as genital warts and penile cancers.
There’s also good data that this benefits their female sexual partners as well. Not only would they benefit from the decreased risk of HIV, HPV and HSV, but women partners of circumcised men also have less frequent trichomonas infections and bacterial vaginosis.
All this data was reviewed in the latest issue of Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, and discussed in a Medscape article (New Data Support Long-Term Health Benefits of Male Circumcision). You can also read the official policy statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics, which was last revised in 2005 and does not reflect this new data.
The Bottom Line?
I find these latest studies very powerful and now am much more inclined to recommend male circumcision. As always, parents making this decision need to make sure that proper pain control techniques are used.
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