CDC: Circumcision Benefits Outweigh Risks

When I read the new proposed guidelines the CDC posted on circumcision, I knew that I wanted to blog about it for Birth and Global Health. Men are largely ignored when it comes to reproductive health; however, they are 50-percent of the equation. Being a self-described hippie, I have always said that if I had male children that I would not circumcise them as it was unnecessary. However, the CDC says that there is strong evidence that male circumcision can:

  1. Cut a man’s risk of getting HIV from an infected female partner by 50 to 60 percent.
  2. Reduce their risk of genital herpes and certain strains of human papillomavirus by 30 percent or more.
  3. Lower the risk of urinary tract infections during infancy, and cancer of the penis in adulthood.

All of this evidence sounds extremely promising, but I am interested in how many men will opt to get a circumcision now that they are older adults, especially since the CDC has recommended that doctors counsel parents of baby boys and teenagers, as well as men, on the benefits and risks of circumcision.


5 thoughts on “CDC: Circumcision Benefits Outweigh Risks

  1. I have always had mixed opinions on this myself, the Jewish side of me for once not getting along with the feminist; on the one hand, circumcision has a number of benefits not only to the man himself but later partners, and is low risk. On the other hand, I believe in choice. I won’t even pierce my children’s ears until they’re old enough to express an opinion. I believe in the right to abortion and contraception, and one of the key points is the woman’s womb belongs to her, so why isn’t the man’s genitalia his own as well?

    So this comes to the question you asked. Men getting circumcised when older. I did some research of my own on this and it raises more quandaries than it solves. Firstly, most men doing this at an older age have more difficulty with the surgery; while the surrounding skin grows proportionately with the body, the inner shaft gets larger after puberty, making the process and healing more painful on boys getting this once they’ve grown into their adult body. Additionally, the men who get this surgery when older are solving a present problem, such as phimosis, balanitis, condyloma, or a redundant foreskin, which all could have been solved with an earlier surgery. The flip side, though, is that patients also report diminished (but not significantly diminished) erectile function and penile sensitivity. It cannot be said if this is a consequence of having surgery late, or simply having circumcision at all.

    Overall, as a healthcare professional, I would be tempted to pick circumcision, though at the end of the day I question the morality of damaging a boy’s body autonomy.

    (2012). Circumcision Policy Statement. The American Academy of Pediatrics, 130(13). 585-6.

    Fink, K. S., Carson, C. C., & DeVellis, R. F. (2002). Adult circumcision outcomes study: effect on erectile function, penile sensitivity, sexual activity and satisfaction. The Journal of Urology, 167(5). 2113-6.

  2. This is very interesting to me as well, since I share your opinion of not wanting to circumcise my potential future baby boy. I’ve debated this with numerous people, mostly friends who just wouldn’t want their child to be “different” or who think that foreskin is “gross”. In my opinion, it is the natural order of things, so why not leave it? Also, I find it interesting that most of the world does not perform male circumcision. I am vehemently against female circumcision, and just feel hypocritical supporting male circumcision. However, these statistics are promising, as you said. I do find it interesting though that somehow lack of foreskin reduces the chance of a man getting HIV from a woman, but doesn’t reduce the chance of a man giving it to a woman or getting it from anal sex. I think I might need to do more research on this, so thanks for posting about it!

  3. Can’t help but jump in here as well. When i graduated from nursing school in 1976, the norm was to circumcise every baby boy, a routine. Later people began to question the routine of it. Lots of dialogue about it. After much debate the American Academy of Pediatrics counseled only as choice, not to recommend or NOT recommend. Many fewer circumcisions ensued. Then: HIV came into the picture. Now things have another side.
    But if parents believe their child is best circumcised: MUCH better to do it as a newborn. Less foreskin, fewer complications. The debate continues.

  4. I have to say that I was pretty shocked when I too saw this article last week. I thought the “trend” for circumcision was turning around in the past 10 years or so. Although the CDC is a trusted source for health promotion, awareness, and action, I am still a little bothered by the ease at which many parents choose to have their male newborn babies circumcised. Albeit for religious reasons, to have boys “look like daddies,” and now to lessen the chance of contracting an STD. Yet, what about the sexual side effects of circumcision that these males may experience later in life (and before they could even make a decision about their own body)? There have been numerous reports about circumcision contributing to decreased penile sensitivity, difficulty achieving orgasm, premature ejaculation, and many psychosocial issues. Personally, I think the human body is already wonderfully equipped and the CDC’s “STD prevention” reason does not make a surgery to remove a body part necessary. There are many other ways to protect against STD’s.

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