Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Health & Parenting

Font Size

New Policy Supports Choice for Male Circumcision

Doctors Say New Studies Show Benefits of the Procedure Outweigh Risks
By
WebMD Health News

Aug. 27, 2012 -- The nation’s pediatricians are changing their stance on male circumcision, again.

This time, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says they want parents to know that the benefits of the procedure outweigh its small risks. But they stop short of recommending the surgery, which removes the foreskin of the penis, for every newborn boy.

Instead, the updated policy statement advises parents to weigh the medical information along with ethical, cultural, and religious beliefs when making the decision. The statement is published in the journal Pediatrics.

“I think it’s a step in the right direction,” says Arleen A. Leibowitz, PhD, a research associate at the University of California, Los Angeles, who studies the public health impacts of circumcision. She was not involved in drafting the new policy.

“This is obviously a personal decision that families make. This is an important step that the academy clarifies where the scientific evidence is and that they do evaluate that the benefits are much stronger than we had previously realized,” Leibowitz says.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, made up of the doctors most likely to discuss the option of circumcision with parents, are also endorsing this policy.

New Science Supports Shift to Older Position

The new guidelines are something of a course correction for the AAP. Their previous policy, published in 1999, questioned the medical necessity of male circumcision.

“The guidelines at that time suggested that there were few, if any, health benefits associated with circumcision,” says Michael Brady, MD, chairman of the department of pediatrics at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. 

States looking to slash their Medicaid spending used that policy to deny coverage for the procedure. The result was a steady drop in circumcisions in the U.S. According to the CDC, 63% of newborn boys were circumcised in 1999 compared to 55% in 2010.

“This is a shift in position,” says Brady, who was on the task force that updated the guidelines.

The new policy sounds a lot like the AAP's 1989 statement, which for the first time found that male circumcision offered some advantages, particularly protection against urinary tract infections.

“Since that time, there have been some significant additions to the information related to the health benefits of circumcision,” Brady says.

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

Today on WebMD

Girl holding up card with BMI written
Is your child at a healthy weight?
toddler climbing
What happens in your child’s second year.
 
father and son with laundry basket
Get your kids to help around the house.
boy frowning at brocolli
Tips for dealing with mealtime mayhem
 
mother and daughter talking
Tool
child brushing his teeth
Slideshow
 
Sipping hot tea
Slideshow
Young woman holding lip at dentists office
Video
 
6-Week Challenges
Want to know more?
Chill Out and Charge Up Challenge – How to help your tribe de-stress and energize.
Spark Change Challenge - Ready for a healthy change? Get some major motivation.
I have read and agreed to WebMD's Privacy Policy.
Enter cell phone number
- -
Entering your cell phone number and pressing submit indicates you agree to receive text messages from WebMD related to this challenge. WebMD is utilizing a 3rd party vendor, CellTrust, to provide the messages. You can opt out at any time.
Standard text rates apply
Which Vaccines Do Adults Need
Article
rl with friends
fitSlideshow
 
tissue box
Quiz
Child with adhd
Slideshow