Male circumcision benefits are greater than the risks, says the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) after carrying out a comprehensive review of available scientific evidence. However, the Academy emphasizes that it does not consider the benefits are enough to advise parents to have their newborn male babies circumcised; this should be a parental decision based on their cultural, ethical and religious beliefs. The AAP added that circumcision should be covered by insurance.

This is a change in the AAPs stance of circumcision.

The AAPs policy statement and technical report is published in the September issue of Pediatrics. These statements represent an update on the policies of 1999 and 2005.

Over the last 24 months, a growing number of studies and reports have been published which show evidence of the benefits of male circumcision. In July 2012, the Global Advocacy for HIV Prevention said that voluntary medical male circumcision is one of the most effective weapons today against the spread of HIV infection. It urges countries where HIV infection rates are high, such as many in Africa, to make sure males have access to professional circumcision procedures.

Global Map of Male Circumcision Prevalence at Country Level
Many people wonder why circumcision is recommended to stop the spread of HIV infection if circumcision rates in Western Europe are much lower than in the USA, but American HIV infection rates are much higher, and circumcision rates in Africa are also very high, but HIV infection rates are the highest in the world.

Since 2005, the AAP says that recent scientific evidence shows compellingly what the benefits of circumcision are. The AAP’s Taskforce on Circumcision explained in Pediatrics that after reviewing recent studies, the health benefits of circumcision include a lower risk of acquiring or developing:

A report published by the American Cancer Society demonstrated that males who are circumcised have a 15% lower risk of developing prostate cancer if the procedure is carried out before their first sexual intercourse.

Susan Blank, MD, FAAP, chair of the AAPs Taskforce on Circumcision that wrote the report, said:

“Ultimately, this is a decision that parents will have to make. Parents are entitled to medically accurate and non-biased information about circumcision, and they should weigh this medical information in the context of their own religious, ethical and cultural beliefs.”

Individual families may not find that the medical benefits, on their own, outweigh other considerations, the Task Force wrote. According to available medical data today, circumcision is safest when performed during the first twelve months of a baby’s life. The AAP advices parents who choose to have their male baby circumcised to make sure the procedure is carried out by trained health care professionals who use sterile techniques and proper pain management.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) says it endorses the new AAP recommendations regarding male circumcision.

Dr. Sabrina Craigo, on behalf of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, said:

“This information will be helpful for obstetricians who are often the medical providers who counsel parents about circumcision. We support the idea that parents choosing circumcision should have access to the procedure.”

When deciding on whether or not to have your baby boy circumcised, you should discuss the benefits and risks of the procedure thoroughly with the child’s doctor, the AAP advices. Parents should also discuss with the doctor who will carry out the procedure. Dr. Blank said it is a good idea to talk about this while the mother is still pregnant, so that the decision can be made slowly.

On August 24th, researchers at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine reported that US infant male circumcision rates have dropped. They added that this would add an extra $4.4 billion to the USA’s avoidable health care costs. Their report was published in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

  • Bleeding after or during the infection
  • Infection after the procedure
  • The foreskin may be cut too short
  • The foreskin may be cut too long
  • The foreskin that remains behind may reattach to the end of the penis. In such cases minor surgery is required
  • Urinary retention
  • Inclusion cyst
  • Phimosis – the foreskin is too tight to be pulled back to reveal the glans

Written by Christian Nordqvist