A study of the lifelong effects of circumcision indicates fewer baby boys today are getting circumcised in the United States than in previous decades. The research team attributes this finding to shifting demographics in the US and widespread lack of access to medical coverage that pays for the procedure. The study also reveals the benefits of infant male circumcision outweigh the risks 100 to 1.
Brian Morris led the study from the University of Sydney in Australia, where he is Professor Emeritus of the university's School of Medical Sciences. Morris worked with researchers in Florida and Minnesota who are affiliated with the Mayo Clinic.
The percentage of adult men in the US who are circumcised is 81%, with variations across ethnic populations:
- 91% of white men are circumcised
- 76% of black men are
- 44% of Hispanic men are
Infant male circumcision peaked in the 1960s, when 83% of all baby boys were circumcised, to just 77% today.
The research team identified two major factors driving the current decline in infant male circumcisions:
- Demographic changes, especially the increasing population of Hispanics. The procedure is less familiar in Hispanic cultures so parents are less likely to get their sons circumcised at birth.
- Eighteen states deny Medicaid coverage to poor families. Circumcision rates in these states is 24% lower than average in states where Medicaid covers the procedure.
Uncircumcised male babies are more likely to suffer kidney damage from urinary tract infections (UTIs) than their circumcised peers. The UTI risk follows them throughout life. Over the course of a lifetime, uncircumcised males are three times more likely to develop UTIs than circumcised males.
Previous studies indicate failure to circumcise increased the risk of infection from the human papillomavirus (HPV), herpes simplex virus type 2, genital ulcer disease, syphilis, chancroid, and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). The risk of cancer of the penis is increased, too.
Sexual partners of uncircumcised men face increased risk of HPV and other STDs as well as cancer of the anus, cervix, vagina, and vulva.
Critics of the procedure often cite diminished sexual performance as a reason for not circumcising but a separate study by Morris indicates this belief is merely myth. That study indicated no adverse effect on sexual function, pleasure, or sensitivity in circumcised men.
Morris states, “The new findings now show that infant circumcision should be regarded as equivalent to childhood vaccination and that as such it would be unethical not to routinely offer parents circumcision for their baby boy. Delay puts the child’s health at risk and will usually mean it will never happen.”