News / Health

American Pediatrics Group Cites Benefits Of Male Circumcision

Carol Pearson
Circumcision for baby boys was a common practice in the United States but, in the past several years, many parents and health insurance companies have decided against it claiming it was not be medically necessary. Now, a group of American pediatricians says the health benefits of male circumcision outweigh its risks.

In many African countries, adult men are getting circumcised to stop the spread of HIV. That's because research shows that male circumcision can protect both men and their female partners from AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases.

The World Health Organization concluded that universal male circumcision in sub-Saharan Africa could prevent close to six million new cases of HIV infection and 3 million deaths over a 20 year period.

Dr. Aaron Tobian, a pathologist with Johns Hopkins Medicine, studied the health and economic impact of circumcision.  "Three randomized trials which are the gold standard of our medical evidence, have shown that male circumcision reduces HIV, genital herpes and human papillomavirus that causes penile cancer," he said.

In Judaism, male circumcision is obligatory.  For Muslims, it's recommended. In other cultures, it's a rite of passage into manhood. During the procedure the foreskin is cut from the penis. Many Americans say male circumcision is unnecessary. Some insurance plans, both private and public, no longer pay for the procedure.

The American Academy of Pediatricians recently issued a statement supporting the procedure. "The task force came to the conclusion that circumcision is cost effective.  Although it costs money to circumcise a baby boy, it also saves health costs related to the reduction in sexually transmitted diseases," said one of the group's task force members, Dr. Douglas Diekema.
The pediatric group did not recommend routine male circumcision, but it did say the procedure should be covered by insurance. A study by Dr. Tobian validates the group's findings.
"What we found is that just the current rate of decrease of male circumcision from 79 percent to 55 percent over the last 20 years, will increase the United States' health care expenditures by about $2 billion," Tobian said.

Doctors say complications from male circumcision on infants are rare and usually minor. They also say baby boys have far fewer complications than men or boys do when they get circumcised later on.

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Comment Sorting
by: hjkl from: Tasmania, Australia
September 07, 2012 4:00 AM
A state in Australia is currently considering law to protect the legality of religious circumcision:

by: Mike from: California
September 02, 2012 1:35 PM
So let me get this straight: Genital mutilization is OK because it seems to provide a slight reduction in sexually transmitted diseases among people who have lots of unprotected sex with lots of partners. Hmmm . . . Well, I suppose that is a nice revenue generator for the medical community, but how about teaching every child, male and female, how to properly use condoms and make them freely available? There would also be the benefit of unwanted pregnancy becoming rare and a slow reduction in unsustainable population levels. Just a thought.

P.S. I wish we could comment on all VOA stories.

by: Mark Lyndon from: Manchester, UK
August 30, 2012 9:44 AM
It's really easy to find circumcised doctors who are against circumcision, but surprisingly difficult to find male doctors in favor who weren't circumcised themselves as children. The AAP are way out of line with other national medical organizations, and it's very disappointing that they say this: "Parents are entitled to factually correct, nonbiased information about circumcision" but they provide information that is both biased and highly selective. They simply don't seem to consider that the foreskin might actually be valuable.

How strange that all the health benefits the AAP claim don't seem to exist in Europe, where almost no-one circumcises unless they're Jewish or Muslim.
I suppose it's a good thing they didn't look at operating on girls to prevent breast cancer. 11% of women get breast cancer, and 3% die of it, so the health benefits to the girls would massively outweigh the risks. Meanwhile, other national health organizations including the Canadian Paediatric Society and the Dutch Medical Association continue to recommend *against* circumcising newborns.
In Response

by: paula ryan from: cornwall, GB
September 02, 2012 10:58 AM
Like all intactivists, Mark Lyndon is strong on emotive language and vague dismissive statements but weak on facts.

The statistical evidence for circumcision has built up into a strongly convincing argument - certainly strong enough to convince the World Health Organisation to devote millions of dollars on a circumcision program in Africa. It also shows that the penny-pinching decision of the British NHS to discontinue funding circumcision in the late 1940s was fundamentally flawed. Any statisticians out there care to number-crunch and tell us all how much this has cost the Britich taxpayer, not to mention the deaths and suffering from a range of diseases (including cervical cancer and human papilloma virus) which male circumcision protects against?

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