Circumcision: Medical Pros and Cons
David Perlstein, MD, MBA, FAAP
Dr. Perlstein received his Medical Degree from the University of Cincinnati and then completed his internship and residency in pediatrics at The New York Hospital, Cornell medical Center in New York City. After serving an additional year as Chief Pediatric Resident, he worked as a private practitioner and then was appointed Director of Ambulatory Pediatrics at St. Barnabas Hospital in the Bronx.
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
- Circumcision: Medical pros and cons facts
- What has been the medical view of circumcision?
- What is the anatomy of the penis?
- What is a retractable foreskin?
- What is newborn circumcision?
- What is phimosis?
- What is paraphimosis?
- What is balanoposthitis?
- What is meatitis?
- Is it easier to care for the circumcised penis or uncircumcised penis?
- What is the relationship between circumcision and urinary tract infections?
- What is the relationship between circumcision and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)?
- What is the correlation between sexually transmitted diseases and cervical cancer?
- What is the relationship between circumcision and penile cancer?
- Find a local Pediatrician in your town
Circumcision: Medical pros and cons facts
- Inability to retract the foreskin fully at birth is not a medical reason for a circumcision.
- Circumcision prevents phimosis (the inability to retract the foreskin at an age when it should normally be retractable), paraphimosis (the painful inability to return the foreskin to its original location), and balanoposthitis (inflammation of the glans and foreskin).
- Circumcision increases the chance of meatitis (inflammation of the opening of the penis).
- Circumcision may result in a decreased incidence of urinary tract infections.
- Circumcision may result in a lower incidence of sexually transmitted diseases and may reduce HIV transmission.
- Circumcision may lower the risk for cancer of the cervix in sexual partners.
- Circumcision may decrease the risk for cancer of the penis.
- There is still no absolute medical indication for routine circumcision of the newborn.
The issue of circumcision is as controversial as it ever has been. There are well-known religious, social, and medical reasons to recommend circumcision; however, most major medical societies have taken an "impartial" view of the procedure, neither recommending nor renouncing the practice.
What has been the medical view of circumcision?
In 1975, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) stated in no uncertain terms that "there is no absolute medical indication for routine circumcision of the newborn." In 1983, the AAP and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) restated this position. In 1999, in 2005, and again in 2012, the AAP again restated this position of equivocation.
Currently, the practice of newborn circumcision is very common. It has been estimated that a majority of males in the United States are circumcised. This number varies depending upon ethnicity and religious affiliation.
Regarding newborn circumcision, most physicians today agree with the practice of informing parents of the risks and benefits of the procedure in an unbiased manner. Recently, however, several large studies revealed a large decrease in HIV transmission in circumcised males compared to uncircumcised males. This finding did not impact the equivocal stance taken by these physician organizations, and they still recommend giving parents the ability to choose whether or not to circumcise their infant based on preference and religious beliefs.
What is the anatomy of the penis?
The penis is a cylindrical shaft with a rounded tip. The rounded tip is called the glans. There is a groove (termed the coronal sulcus) between the shaft and the glans of the penis. The fold of skin that covers the glans is the foreskin (the prepuce).
What is a retractable foreskin?
A retractable foreskin is one that can be pulled back behind the groove of the coronal sulcus to expose the glans.
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