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New Policy Supports Choice for Male Circumcision

Doctors Say New Studies Show Benefits of the Procedure Outweigh Risks

Circumcision Cuts Infections, STDs

Studies from Africa and Europe show that circumcision cuts the rate of transmission of sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV, herpes simplex, and human papillomavirus (HPV). Evidence also shows that circumcision reduces the rate of urinary tract infections, especially in the first year of life; reduces the risk of penile cancer; and reduces the risk of cervical cancer in sexual partners.

What’s more, a study published last week in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine estimated that if circumcisions continue to decline to levels seen in Europe, the U.S. could see:

  • A 12% increase in men infected with HIV
  • A 29% increase in men infected with HPV
  • A 19% increase in men infected with herpes simplex
  • A 211% increase in urinary tract infections in infants

The new policy statement also says the benefits of circumcision warrant coverage by third-party payers like Medicaid and insurance companies.

“This is very good news,” says Aaron Tobian, MD, PhD, an assistant professor of medicine, pathology, and epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health in Baltimore, Md. Tobian is one of the researchers who estimated the economic consequences of continuing declines in circumcision. He was not involved in drafting the new policy.

“It is important that we remove all barriers to the procedure. This will allow parents to discuss the risks and benefits of the procedure with their physician, and make an informed decision,” Tobian says in an email to WebMD.

The risks of circumcision include bleeding and infection. “There are potential health benefits,” Brady says. “In situations where parents believe it’s in the best interests of their child to be circumcised, we would hope that they aren’t denied that opportunity because they can’t afford it.”

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