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Last updated on April 23, 2014 at 12:54 EDT

To Snip Or Not To Snip: Circumcision Debate Is Resurrected

August 27, 2012
Image Credit: dundanim / Shutterstock

Michael Harper for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online

It´s a debate which is sure to never really come to a close. In addition to the questions of health involved, there are also questions of ethics and religion. Combine these aspects with passionate arguments on either side, and what´s left is a debate which will rage on for years to come.

Last week, a study was released by the John Hopkins University which said the trend towards keeping baby boys intact is racking up a huge nationwide health care bill, adding an additional $4.4 billion each year.

Today, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) have made a statement about their policy on circumcision: They say the snip carries some overall health benefits, but in the end, it´s a decision the parents should make with their doctor. According to the APP, the benefits of circumcision “are not great enough to recommend routine circumcision.”

“Scientific research shows clearer health benefits to the procedure than had previously been demonstrated,” said the AAP, which represents 60,000 pediatricians in Canada and the United States. The group also parroted the benefits outlined in the John Hopkins University study last week, saying there are significant health insurance savings to be had with circumcisions.

For many, circumcision is less about the potential health benefits or dangers and more of a religious practice. Both Muslims and Jews practice circumcision, and view it as a sacred oath.

Critics of this procedure, however, say it is painful for the little boys. Furthermore, these critics say the procedure is medically unnecessary and could lead to further complications in the boy´s future.

“Scientific research shows clearer health benefits to the procedure than had previously been demonstrated. According to a systematic and critical review of the scientific literature, the health benefits of circumcision include lower risks of acquiring HIV, genital herpes, human papillomavirus and syphilis. Circumcision also lowers the risk of penile cancer over a lifetime; reduces the risk of cervical cancer in sexual partners, and lowers the risk of urinary tract infections in the first year of life,” said the AAP.

The John Hopkins University study also found that the foreskin can be a hiding ground for all sorts of sexually transmitted diseases, such as HIV and aids, HPV and even penile cancers. The study also found that as more parents decide to leave their boys intact, STDs will continue to increase. According to this study, the rate of American circumcisions is dropping rapidly, with nearly 55% of American parents opting to give their sons the snip. For comparison, nearly 80% of parents chose the procedure in the 1970s and 1980s.

“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,” said Dr. Aaron Tobian, the senior investigator with John Hopkins.

While studies like these are suggesting that circumcision is a healthy choice for these boys, some are concerned that a sweeping statement about the procedure could be dangerous, especially in situations where the baby is not healthy enough to go under the knife.

“Although the evidence also is clear that infants experience pain, there are several safe and effective ways to reduce the pain. If the baby is born prematurely, has an illness at birth, or has congenital abnormalities or blood problems, he should not be circumcised immediately,” said the AAP.

The group also says this procedure is safest when performed on babies, rather than waiting till a boy is older to have his foreskin removed.

In the end, says Dr. Susan Bank, the chairwoman of the task force responsible for today´s AAP statement, the parents should make an informed decision with their doctor while the mother is still pregnant.

“It’s a good idea to have this conversation during pregnancy, and to learn whether your insurance will cover the procedure, so you have time to make the decision,” Blank said.


Source: Michael Harper for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online