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It's been argued by various medical organizations that male circumcision has various medical benefits, such as reducing the risk of catching HIV, or reducing the risk of urinary tract infections, for instance. Are there any respectable scientific studies to back these assertions up?

25

There is evidence that neonatal circumcision saying that the benefits of circumcision outweigh the risks.

According to a study done on neonatal circumcision[1], the lifetime benefits of being circumcised outweighed the risks 100 to 1. Some of the risks people may associate with circumcision are very unlikely. Excessive bleeding only happens 0.1% of the time, infections 0.02% of the time, and loss of penis 0.0001% of the time. The percentage of death is only 0.00001%.

Overall, it shows that males who have been circumcised require half as much medical attention as males who have not been circumcised. Also, the overall risk of circumcised men having serious medical implications is 1 to 5000; this includes things like HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.

This graph contains other relevant information.

There are some people who disagree with the article mentioned above.[2] In a direct statement against the article, it is said that the article is "marred by bias." They note how the article fails to mention many things, such as statements against circumcision and harms in sexual experience. It doesn't completely refute the article that says circumcision is beneficial, but it is something good to think about.


[1] Circumcision Rates

[2] Bias and Male Circumcision

  • 8
    Sounds good. My only objection is that Neonatal circumcision tampers with children's bodies before there's reasonable risk of sexually transmitted diseases, I've read there's people who don't even like sex or have any interest in practicing sex, the common term used is "asexual". I know the sex related risks are not the only variables, but there are pros and cons on both choices, so maybe let grown males decide for themselves what to do with their bodies? It seems better to let individuals chose at free will what kind of risk they're willing to take. – JorgeArtware Apr 9 '15 at 9:44
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    This is a really tough question, and you’re good to tackle it. Important to also note a direct rebuttal published in the same journal. An accepted answer on Skeptics (which I happen to disagree with ;-) ) also contradicts the HIV data used in the analysis cited. The literature is huge, statistically complex, and marred by all of the biases inherent to a topic that doesn’t lend itself to large randomized controlled trials. :-( – Susan Apr 10 '15 at 23:51
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    Another sceptics answer that disagrees with this one (also mentioned by @PatrickHoefler) which has quite some votes. (I don't know which is right, just want to point out that there's apparently controversy despite a reputable source in this answer). – Mark Dec 8 '16 at 12:40
  • " half as much medical attention" - unless a foreskin causes heart attacks, appendicitis, car accidents etc this seems utterly impossible. – Kate Gregory Mar 16 '18 at 15:55
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There is some evidence which supports that male circumcision reduces the risk of HIV infection among heterosexual men in sub-Saharan Africa(1),(2), however the evidence of an HIV benefits for men who have sex with men is less clear(3),(4) and its use to prevent HIV in the developed world is unclear either(5).

The treatment option for pathological phimosis, refractory balanoposthitis and UTIs is only contraindicated in cases of certain genital structure abnormalities or poor general health(6),(7).

WHO recommends considering circumcision as part of a comprehensive HIV program only in areas with high rates of HIV (e.g. Africa)(8),(9).

Therefore if you're not living in Africa or areas with high rates of HIV, the potential risks outweighs health benefits associated with circumcision. As currently no major medical organization recommends non-therapeutic neonatal circumcision, and no major medical organization calls for banning it either.

See also: Circumcision at Wikipedia

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    +1 For the SEVERAL references from the National Center for Biotechnology Information – JorgeArtware Apr 9 '15 at 8:44
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    You say "unclear" for some of the benefits for developed countries, and then assert categorically that the potential risks outweigh the health benefits. That seems a touch contradictory. – Fomite Apr 13 '15 at 18:39
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Circumcision is a form of sexual mutilation performed on male infants usually for religious reasons unrelated to putative health benefits. The claim of reduced risk for HIV infection is supported by this Cochrane review but applies to Africa. Another review looked at urinary tract infections and found insufficient data to draw conclusions.

Circumcision has traditionally been conducted without analgesia and there are some data to suggest stress related manifestations develop in these children compared with the uncircumcised. Furthermore, there have been well publicised deaths resulting from the traditional Jewish practice of sucking on the foreskin to prevent bleeding causing herpes. In any other jurisdiction, this could be considered paedophilia.

Interestingly Iceland is looking to ban neonatal circumcision.

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