The number of newborn boys circumcised in community hospitals across the US is currently at its lowest level, 54.5 percent, since the federal government starting tracking the statistic in 1993. But could a study on prostate cancer, and the issues it raises, cause the pendulum—and parents thinking about circumcision—to start swinging in the other direction?
According to a study from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Researcher Center in Seattle, men who are circumcised at some point before their first sexual experience have a 15 percent lower rate of prostate cancer than those who either had the procedure done after their first sexual encounter, or who are uncircumcised. Researchers say a link between prostate cancer and circumcision exists because men who are circumcised are less likely to get sexually transmitted diseases like herpes and HPV, both of which elevate the risk of getting prostate cancer, ABC News reports. (Don't forget safe sex practices, which help men and women avoid sexually transmitted diseases.)
Simply put, "foreskin is a breeding ground for infection…," says Dr. Durado Brooks, director of prostate and colorectoral cancers at the American Cancer Society, who agrees with the findings of the research.
But is it so simple? On the other side of the circumcision debate are vocal opponents of the procedure like Lloyd Schofield, a San Francisco man who led a recent charge in the Bay Area to ban routine hospital circumcision of infant boys.
"The foreskin is there for a reason. It's not a birth defect. It serves an important function in a man's life and nobody has a right to perform unnecessary surgery on another human being," says Schonfield (via ABC). He adds that, "No medical association promotes circumcision. If there was sound and repeated scientific evidence, there'd be a medical association promoting it."
Who is right in this debate? For the time being, the answer still seems to come down to a matter of perspective. While infant circumcision is usually performed for religious or cultural reasons, the American Academy of Pediatrics officially states that, even in light of this study, not enough scientific evidence exists yet to demonstrate potential medical and health benefits of circumcision in newborns.