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Circumcising Newborns May Protect Against Penile Cancer

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But some physicians, including the researchers involved in the Pediatrics study, disagree. Schoen, who led the American Academy of Pediatrics task force on circumcision in 1989, and his colleagues Thomas E. Wiswell, MD, and Stephen Moses, PhD, say the statement needs to be revised to be more supportive of circumcision.

Carole Lannon, MD, MPH, chairwoman of the AAP's 2000 circumcision task force and a clinical associate professor of internal medicine and pediatrics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, supports the AAP?s current statement. "When you're weighing risks and benefits, what you're being asked is whether you can recommend a surgical procedure on every newborn male," Lannon tells WebMD. "And when you look at the protective benefits, penile cancer is a very rare disease."

But protection against penile cancer is only one of the benefits of circumcision, says Schoen, clinical professor of pediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco, and director of perinatal screening for the northern California division of Kaiser Permanente.

"Circumcision is indicated for prevention of foreskin infections, which can be very troublesome ... and in avoidance of phimosis, where you'll have to be circumcised later on and it's more difficult," he tells WebMD.

Schoen, Wiswell, and Moses say they are concerned that the current AAP statement could leave the mistaken impression that the AAP is recommending against circumcision, rather than remaining neutral on the subject.

For now, physicians agree, parents should make the most informed decision possible for their child after discussing the pros and cons with their physicians.

Vital Information:

  • A new study finds that circumcision in infancy can protect men against cancer of the penis later in life.
  • The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents make their own decision about whether to circumcise a child because the medical risks and benefits are not clearly defined.
  • Some experts disagree with the academy's position and believe that physicians should encourage circumcision.
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