Circumcision: Is It More than a Convenant with God?

BlogHer Original Post

Several friends of mine who are having babies mentioned to me in passing that they if they have a boy, they probably won’t circumcise him, as there is no conclusive evidence regarding the procedure's health benefits. So I was particularly interested when I walked by a copy of today’s New York Times that my husband left open on the table after he left for work, and noticed a blurb out of the corner of my eye regarding a new study on circumcision:

Men who are circumcised may have a significantly reduced risk of acquiring a sexually transmitted disease compared with those who are not, a New Zealand study has found.

...After statistically adjusting for family education, socioeconomic status, number of partners and self-reported unprotected sex, researchers concluded that the odds of acquiring a subsequent S.T.D. were 3.19 times higher for men who were uncircumcised. The study was published this month in Pediatrics.

...Dr. Fergusson [the lead author of the study and a professor of medical psychology at Christchurch School of Medicine] declined to offer advice to parents. “Decisions to circumcise children should not be made on the basis of one study,” he said. “They should be based on all the evidence. There is certainly evidence of benefit, but the complicated decision parents face is weighing the benefits against the risks of a surgical procedure. Even if we assumed all the evidence favored circumcision, most children wouldn’t benefit from it. We estimate that you would have to circumcise 20 boys to prevent one case of sexually transmitted disease.”

Since the numbers make a difference in understand the scope of these studies, it is important to note that 510 boys born in 1977 took part in the study. Not all were circumcised at birth, which I found interesting; the Times noted that 30% of them were circumcised “by age 15.” Ouch.

In other circumcision news, two preliminary studies in Kenya and Uganda may indicate that circumcision may reduce the rate of HIV infection. The World Health Organization sensibly warns that it does not provide full protection against HIV/AIDS, and that if the procedure is performed in non-sterile environments, the potential harm may outweigh the benefits.

Suzanne more often blogs about female genitals at Campaign for Unshaved Snatch (CUSS) & Other Rants

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