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 correlation between sexually transmitted diseases and cervical cancer?

There is a strong connection between sexually transmitted diseases and cervical cancer. Human papillomavirus types 16 and 18 (as well as other less common HPV types) are causes of precancerous changes in the cervix and cervical cancer.

The strongest predisposing factors in cervical cancer are a history of intercourse at an early age and multiple sexual partners. An HPV vaccine is now available and recommended for all girls and boys, and when given before the first sexual encounter, it has been shown to be protective against the most common HPV types associated with malignancy. The vaccine presumably prevents cervical cancer associated with these specific infections but is unable to prevent cancers arising from infections with less common HPV types not contained in the vaccine. Therefore, routine screening for precancerous changes in the cervix is still recommended.

What might this relationship between lack of circumcision and cervical cancer mean?

Circumcision may partially protect the mate from cancer of the cervix by removing the foreskin which harbors sexually transmitted viruses (HPVs) that promote this common form of female cancer.

What is the relationship between circumcision and penile cancer?

The predicted lifetime risk of cancer of the penis in an uncircumcised man is one in 600 in the United States. Cancer of the penis carries a death (mortality) rate as high as 25%. This cancer occurs almost exclusively in uncircumcised men. In five major research studies, no man who had been circumcised as a newborn developed penile cancer. Human papillomavirus types 16 and 18, which are sexually transmitted, are involved in cancer of the penis. That is why routine vaccination against HPV is recommended for both boys and girls.


American Academy of Pediatrics. "Circumcision Policy Statement." Pediatrics 130 (2012): 585-586.

Morris, B.J., et al. "A 'snip' in time: what is the best age to circumcise?" BMC Pediatrics 12 (2012): 20. <>.

Tobian, A.R., et al. "Male Circumcision for the Prevention of Acquisition and Transmission of sexually transmitted infections: The case for Neonatal Circumcision." Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine. 164.1 (2010): 78-84.

Wang, M.L., et al. "Updated parental viewpoints on male neonatal circumcision in the U.S." Clinical Pediatrics 49.2 Feb. 2010: 130-136.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/6/2015

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