Male Circumcision: Benefits & Risks

Male Circumcision: Benefits & Risks


What is Circumcision?

Circumcision is the surgical removal of the skin covering the tip of the penis. Circumcision is fairly common for newborn boys in certain parts of the world, including the United States. Circumcision after the newborn period is possible, but it’s a more complex procedure.

For some families, circumcision is a religious ritual. Circumcision can also be a matter of family tradition, personal hygiene or preventive health care. For others, however, circumcision seems unnecessary or disfiguring. After circumcision, it isn’t generally possible to re-create the appearance of an uncircumcised penis.

Is Circumcision necessary?

The use of circumcision for medical or health reasons is an issue that continues to be debated. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) found that the health benefits of newborn male circumcision outweigh the risks, but the benefits are not great enough to recommend universal newborn circumcision. The procedure may be recommended in older boys and men to treat phimosis (the inability to retract the foreskin) or to treat an infection of the penis.

Parents should talk with their doctor about the benefits and risks of the procedure before making a decision regarding circumcision of a male child. Other factors, such as your culture, religion, and personal preference, will also be involved in your decision.

Pros and Cons of Circumcision

There are no overwhelming health-related reasons for circumcision to be routinely performed on newborn males. Therefore, it is a decision best left to parents.

Despite rumors to the contrary, circumcision has no effect on a man’s fertility, nor does it affect —negatively or positively sexual pleasure for either partner.

Here are some of the pros and cons of male circumcision:

Pros of Circumcision

  • decreased risk of urinary tract infections
  • decreased risk of penile cancer
  • decreased risk of sexually transmitted diseases
  • easier genital hygiene

Cons of Circumcision

  • some see circumcision as mutilation to the body
  • there is no life-or-death indication for the procedure
  • rare complications include cutting the foreskin too long or too short, and improper healing, bleeding, or infection

Risks of Circumcision

The most common complications associated with circumcision are bleeding and infection. Side effects related to anesthesia are possible as well.

Rarely, circumcision might result in foreskin problems. For example:

  • The foreskin might be cut too short or too long
  • The foreskin might fail to heal properly
  • The remaining foreskin might reattach to the end of the penis, requiring minor surgical repair

What are the benefits of Circumcision?

There is some evidence that circumcision has health benefits, including:

  • A decreased risk of urinary tract infections.
  • A reduced risk of some sexually transmitted diseases in men.
  • Protection against penile cancer and a reduced risk of cervical cancer in female sex partners.
  • Prevention of balanitis (inflammationof the glans) and balanoposthitis (inflammation of the glans and foreskin).
  • Prevention of phimosis (the inability to retract the foreskin) and paraphimosis (the inability to return the foreskin to its original location).

Circumcision also makes it easier to keep the end of the penis clean.

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