An interesting and relatively simple piece of research into prostate cancer has been released this week. It is one that you might have thought would have been done a lot sooner. The paper shows evidence that supports circumcision in reduction of prostate cancer risk.

The article published by the American Cancer Society looked at more than 1,750 cases and took an additional 1,645 cases for controls. The results showed that circumcision, before the man’s first sexual intercourse, had a 15% reduction in prostate cancer risk, when compared to uncircumcised men. This risk reduction was observed for cases with both less aggressive (odds ratio, 0.88; 95% CI, 0.74-1.04) and more aggressive (odds ratio, 0.82; 95% CI, 0.66-1.00) Prostate Cancers.

Circumcision is when the foreskin that covers the head of the penis is removed. It is usually done shortly after birth, and although it has been popular in the past and remains the norm for religious reasons, it’s no longer recommended by The American Academy of Pediatrics. It has, however, started to become widely used in Africa, as research has shown it helps prevent the spread of the HIV virus.

Circumcision was thought to be more hygienic, and may also explain why some religions recommended it. However, it’s not without its detractors and controversy. Even the efforts in Africa against HIV have heard outcries of cruelty and Jewish conspiracy. The procedure, although generally thought safe, can cause bleeding and infection.

Researchers from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle say that more study is needed to understand the relationship. Their findings that are published in the journal Cancer, say that it is not clear exactly why it helps reduce prostate cancer, perhaps due to cleanliness or the reduction in sexually transmitted diseases.

Janet L. Stanford, a co-author of the study and research professor at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle said :

“From these results, we estimate that circumcision may prevent about 10 percent of all prostate cancer cases in the general population,”

However, men circumcised after their first sexual encounter did not seem to benefit from the reduced risk, but those circumcised in their childhood had an 18% reduction in the most aggressive types of prostate cancer. A reason may be a reduction in general infections.

It is estimated that infections cause around 17% of the cancers worldwide, with general bacterial and fungal or viral infections causing inflammation and long term chronic damage to the organ, which eventually becomes cancerous. Cases are well documented for stomach, cervical and liver cancers amongst others, and studies have shown that men are less likely to infect their female partners with HPV virus, the human papillomavirus that has been linked with cervical cancer.

General infections can cause chronic long term inflammation, which degrades the cells ability to function and can damage the DNA. The site of inflammation is also thought to provide a more conducive environment for cancer cells to form, with a high temperature and lower immune function.

Its certainly an interesting piece of information that might help parents and detractors of circumcision to be clearer with their choices in the future.

Written by Rupert Shepherd