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

circumcision