Circumcising Your Son Now Could Protect His Health Later On

Health Check 46

Parenthood seems strewn with all sorts of controversial subjects that inevitably pit mothers against each other, but here's one topic I know we can all agree on: circumcision. Boy, isn't it nice to finally come across an area of parenting that's completely free of  --

Yeah, I'm kidding, of course. Nothing seems to get people fired up quite like the decision whether or not to circumcise, which is why I found myself almost cringing when I read about the recent study from Johns Hopkins University that claims declining circumcision rates are contributing to an increase in medical problems.

In fact, they say that the trend towards avoiding circumcision may add over $4 billion in U.S. health care costs.

Personally, I don't get involved in the great circumcision debate. For one thing, I just don't feel that strongly about it one way or the other, especially now that I have older kids -- it seems like one of those parenting choices that's really only come under major fire in the last few years.

The fact that the procedure has become a touchy subject recently is reflected in figures from the CDC, which show that the circumcision rate fell from nearly 63 percent of newborn boys in the U.S. in 1999 to about 55 percent in 2010. That doesn't seem surprising -- but the news that this dropping rate may eventually cause widespread health issues certainly is.

Johns Hopkins researchers calculated that if circumcision rates were to continue to dip to 10 percent of U.S. newborn males, there would be a 212 percent increase in cases of male urinary tract infections and a 12 percent increase in HIV infections in men, along with a 29 percent rise in HPV infections and a 20 percent rise in herpes infections.

Women would also experience a 51 percent increases in the infection bacterial vaginosis, an 18 percent rise in high-risk HPV infections, and a 12.9 percent rise in low-risk HPV.

Now, this is all theoretical data based on computer simulations, but the results are pretty sobering, don't you think? If our country did experience all these increased infections, the estimated healthcare costs would be over $4.4 billion.

According to a Johns Hopkins assistant professor of epidemiology and pathology,

Our economic evidence is backing up what our medical evidence has already shown to be perfectly clear. There are health benefits to infant male circumcision in guarding against illness and disease, and declining male circumcision rates come at a severe price, not just in human suffering, but in billions of health care dollars as well.

Strong words, and the American Academy of Pediatrics is listening. According to reports, the AAP will update their male circumcision statement next Monday, and will likely conclude that the health benefits of the procedure outweigh the risks.

The question is, will it change parents' minds? I don't think there's any study that could come out that would sway those who vehemently oppose circumcision, but for those on the fence, the Johns Hopkins study may be a game-changer.

Do you feel any differently about circumcision after reading up on the results of this study?

Image via Elijah Caleb Tan/Flickr



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butte... butterflyfreak

Oh man! I can't wait to see your comments section blow up on this! And a small correction, you spelled medial and I think you meant to type medical.

BubbsJNL BubbsJNL

Like you, this wasn't a 'debate' when my kids were born.  Had it been, we likely would have opted for the 'be like Daddy' option but, yes, this study would DEFINITELY have had an impact on my thinking of it.

nonmember avatar Ram

It doesn't change my view at all. I think teaching proper hygiene and safe sex would be the first step, not cutting off part of a baby's genitals. I'd be mad as hell if someone cut off part of me without my consent. I know plenty of moms and dads who do get their babies circumcised and that's their choice and I don't tell them they shouldn't, but I personally won't be agreeing to circumcise my son.

miche... micheledo

I don't have a strong opinion on this issue either.  And I have heard different opinions on the urinary tract infection thing.  I just don't know.

However - when talking about STD's - that is a STUPID reason to circ (and I'm a mother of three that are).  What about abstinence/monogamy, safe sex - all ways to prevent or mostly prevent an STD.  It just seems ridiculous to advocate surgery for something that might slightly lower your chances of an STD instead of bothering to be safe.  STUPID.    If you aren't being safe - circumcising or not isn't going to make that much of a difference.

Pinst... Pinstripes4

John Hopkins is a heavy hitter in the medical world, but I would love to see a followup study from another university because this is a pretty big finding to swallow. As far as the debate, these findings would affect if I circumcise my son, but not how I judge other parents for doing it or not.

UASteph UASteph

I'm curious to know if they figured in the associated costs of medical problems related to circumcision? Infection, readhesion, etc. I've known several people whose babies have had to be recircumsized due to complications. When my son was born, I didn't feel super strongly one way or the other. He wasn't circumcised because we didn't see a good reason to have him undergo an unnecessary medical procedure. I feel more strongly against it now than I did then, to be honest.

And micheledo - you hit the nail on the head. All the conditions they mentioned are preventable by a) practicing safe sex and b) ensuring that the penis is kept clean, including under the foreskin once it retracts on its own.

I want to read the study itself before making any judgments on its validity, but based on what I see here I'm not about to take my one-year-old in to be circumsized.

Christina Reyna

I am sure, most the "problems" is because the parents are uneducated and try to force the skin back to was. Uncircumsized you DO NOT under any circumstances pull back on the foreskin it is fused to the penis, so the old bs about pee and fecal matter getting in there is completely wrong. 

Oh and a few circed men have problems to, like not feeling much during sex, the roughness of the exposured head hurting scratching their partner, and it restricts penis growth. the skin left intact leves more room for the penis to grow. 

nonmember avatar Shandeigh

When my son was born, I was on the fence about having him circumcised... I ultimately let my husband make the decision to do it as he has a penis and I don't. This study would definitely have swayed me more towards having it done.

nonmember avatar Amy

As long as there is money to be made in circumcision, our privatized healthcare system will continue to endorse it. We have the highest circ rates in the world but somehow still have the highest std rates in the world too. Hmmmm...

My son was born perfect.

nonmember avatar Andi

My husband is intact, so we'd go with the "as nature intended" option of course. The thing is, if you are clean and use protection, you dont have issues. My hubby has never had an issue with infections, etc. He is diligent about keeping it clean. I think if you instill this habit and knowledge in a young man, you are fine. Outside of religion, I see no reason to circ, even seeing this "new" information. Because, HELLO, keep it clean you'll be fine.

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