According to a new report by researchers at Johns Hopkins, the declining rates of U.S. infant male circumcision could increase avoidable health care costs by more than $4.4 billion. The study is published in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

The researchers highlight that increased costs result from new cases and higher rates of sexually transmitted infections and related cancers among uncircumcised men and their female partners.
The study is believed to be the first cost analysis to take into consideration the increased rates of multiple infectious diseases associated declining rates of male circumcision, including herpes, genital warts, HIV/AIDS, and cervical and penile cancers.

Earlier studies have primarily focused on HIV, the single most expensive disease. Male circumcision reduces the risk of HIV infection.

Each year, around 2 million male babies are born in the United States. Of these babies, around 55% are circumcised, a reduction from 79% in the 1970s and 1980s. In Europe, only around 10% of male babies are circumcised.

Tobian, an assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, said:

“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.”

The researchers estimate that the reduction in male infants circumcised has already cost the U.S. around $2 billion.

According to the team, on average, each male infant who is not circumcised results in $313 more in illness-related expenses. This costs could have been avoided if these men had been circumcised.

The team found that if U.S. male circumcision rates among men born in the same year declined to European rates:

  • 12% more men would be infected with HIV
  • 29% more men would be infected with human papillomavirus
  • 19% more men would be infected with herpes simplex virus
  • 211% more men would have urinary tract infections.
  • In addition, there would be 50% more cases of bacterial vaginosis and trichomoniasis, and an 18% increase in human papillomavirus (which is strongly associated to cervical cancer) among their female sex partners.

    The numbers of U.S. infant male circumcisions have been significantly reduces as a result of state funding cuts in Medicaid, and the government medical assistance program for the poor.

    Tobian explained:

    “The financial and health consequences of these decisions are becoming worse over time, especially if more states continue on this ill-fated path. State governments need to start recognizing the medical benefits as well as the cost savings from providing insurance coverage for infant male circumcision.

    The problem in the United States is compounded bu the failure of the American Academy of Pediatrics to recognize the medical evidence in support of male circumcision.”

    The team plan on sharing their findings among state government officials across the U.S. in order to help raise awareness of its medical and cost-benefit analysis.

    Written by Grace Rattue