For the parents of newborn boys, one of the first- and often
most challenging-choices is whether to have him circumcised.
While the decision is still greatly influenced by a family's
religious, cultural or ethical beliefs, recent studies are showing
clear health benefits to infant circumcision.
The journal Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine
recently published an article reviewing several studies on
circumcision and sexually transmitted diseases.
The risk of exposure to HIV dropped 53 percent in circumcised
men. The risk of contracting herpes type 2 and the human
papillomavirus (HPV) were reduced as well. Female partners of
circumcised men also benefited by a reduced risk of bacterial
Circumcised boys also experience easier genital hygiene and
fewer foreskin infections, the journal noted. Circumcised infants
have a 1 in 1,000 chance of getting a urinary tract infection,
versus a 1 in 100 chance for uncircumcised babies.
A majority of the studies reviewed were conducted in developing
countries, where STD rates are significantly higher than in the
United States. While the societal and medical cost savings of
circumcising babies in developing countries is clear, says Dr.
Michael Brady, the savings may not be as clear in a developed
Brady, who chairs the Department of Pediatrics at Nationwide
Children's Hospital in Ohio, says there needs to be more research
on the U.S. population before newborn circumcision becomes routine
For now, physicians should inform parents of the most recent
data, but also respect their personal wishes, Brady says. Even with
the data, he concedes, it's not always an easy decision for parents
"It is difficult for a parent to look at their newborn and have
concerns about future sexual activity," he says. "But that doesn't
preclude them from listening to the information."
Lisa Applegate is a freelance writer and mom of one living in Chicago.
See more of Lisa's stories here.
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