Circumcision: Medical Pros and Cons

  • Medical Author:
    David Perlstein, MD, MBA, FAAP

    Dr. Perlstein received his Medical Degree from the University of Cincinnati and then completed his internship and residency in pediatrics at The New York Hospital, Cornell medical Center in New York City. After serving an additional year as Chief Pediatric Resident, he worked as a private practitioner and then was appointed Director of Ambulatory Pediatrics at St. Barnabas Hospital in the Bronx.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

What is the relationship between circumcision and urinary tract infections?

The incidence of urinary tract infections in male infants appears to be lower when circumcision is done in the newborn period. It was first reported in 1982 that urinary tract infections (UTIs) are more common among infant males than they are in infant females (this switches later on in life). In this study, it was revealed that about 95% of the infected infant boys had not been circumcised. This risk is especially significant in infants less than 1 year of age. Many studies have shown that uncircumcised infants have a tenfold increased risk of developing a UTI when compared to circumcised infants.

What might this relationship between circumcision and urinary tract infections mean?

Circumcision prevents the growth of bacteria under the foreskin, and this, in turn, protects male infants against urinary tract infection. The high incidence of urinary tract infections in uncircumcised boys has also been found to be accompanied by an increased incidence of other significant infections such as bacteremia (bacterial infection of the bloodstream) and meningitis (infection of the covering of the brain). The protective effect of circumcision may thus extend to a number of infectious diseases.

What is the relationship between circumcision and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)?

There is a higher risk of gonorrhea and inflammation of the urethra (the tube that carries the urine from the bladder outside) in uncircumcised men. It has also been reported that other sexually transmitted diseases (such as chancroid, syphilis, human papillomavirus, and herpes simplex virus type 2 infection) are more frequent in uncircumcised men. As mentioned above, most recently three large studies performed in Africa documented that circumcision was protective with respect to the acquisition of HIV infection as compared to those uncircumcised subjects.

What might this connection between circumcision and sexually transmitted diseases mean?

Circumcision prevents the growth under the foreskin of the agents that cause sexually transmitted diseases. Removal of the foreskin may provide some measure of protection from these diseases to males and their mates.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/6/2015

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