The Circumcision Debate
By Maureen Connolly
Deciding whether to circumcise your newborn son can be a difficult
task for some. The surgical procedure, which involves cutting away the
skin that covers the end of the penis, is typically done in the days
following birth. There are personal, cultural, religious and health
reasons to weigh when making the decision.
estimated 60 percent of newborn boys in the United States are
circumcised. However, these numbers may be dropping since many health
groups now consider the procedure medically unnecessary. The American
Academy of Pediatrics says that while there are medical benefits to
having the procedure the evidence is not strong enough to recommend
routine circumcision. Here are some facts about circumcision you may
want to consider:
- It lowers a newborn's risk of urinary tract infections during the first year Infants
who are circumcised have a 1 in 100 chance of developing a UTI, while
an uncircumcised newborn has a 1 in 1,000 chance. "The risks associated
with UTIs include kidney damage and generalized infection, though both
of these are a rare event," says Alan Fleischman, M.D., senior vice
president of medicine at New York Academy of Medicine and a professor
of pediatrics at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine.
- It reduces the risk of penile cancer Men who aren't
circumcised may be more prone to low-grade viral infections which can
predispose them to cancer, says Dr. Fleischman. That said, penile
cancer occurs rarely in both circumcised and uncircumcised males.
- It decreases the incidence of sexually transmitted diseases Research shows that circumcised men have a slightly lower risk of contracting AIDS and HIV.
- It hurts Some research indicates that infants who are
circumcized without any medication to block the pain may be more
sensitive to pain in the future. If you opt for circumcision, discuss
pain relief options with your doctor beforehand. There are anesthetics
that can be injected to block pain and there's also a anesthetic cream
called Emla that many hospitals now use to reduce pain.
- Complications can arise While most are not serious,
infection, bleeding, a too-long or -short foreskin, and urinating
problems can occur. Most of these problems can be corrected. As for
claims that circumcision decreases sexual pleasure by desensitizing the
head of the penis, the AAP says that currently there is no medical
evidence to support this.