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Benefits and Risks of Circumcision

In the U.S., the American Urological Association (AUA) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) each have a policy statement on circumcision. Both groups recommend that it be offered as a choice to parents. The AUA believes that circumcising newborns has benefits and risks.

The most recent policy statement of the AAP in 2012 indicated that, based on newer evidence, the benefits of a circumcision outweigh the risks of the procedure. You should talk with your child's doctor about the health risks and benefits, and decide what will work for your family.

Benefits of Circumcision

Studies have shown that circumcision lowers the risk of getting HIV. This is because the foreskin is not like the skin on other parts of your body. The foreskin has a type of cell called Langerhans cells, which are more likely to attach to HIV cells. Based on these findings, in 2007 the World Health Organization endorsed circumcision as a way to help stop the spread of HIV. Studies have also shown that circumcision reduces the spread of other diseases that are passed through sex.

Circumcised boys are less likely to have a urinary tract infection in their first 6 months. As they grow older, circumcised males are also less likely to get penile cancer. Still, this type of cancer is rare in the U.S. And uncircumcised males can prevent penile cancer with good hygiene and keeping the area under the foreskin clean.

Properly performed circumcision on newborns also prevents phimosis, paraphimosis and balanoposthitis – all problems with the foreskin.

Risks of Circumcision

The risk of bad side effects from circumcision is low. The most common side effect is bleeding or infection. When circumcision is not done the right way, the urethra (the tube that carries urine out of the body) or penis may be hurt. In rare cases, death has even occurred.

Some problems linked to circumcision that may not be noticed until later are buried penis, meatal stenosis (narrow opening at the end of the penis), skin bridges, chordee (curved penis), and the penis not looking right. Some of these problems may need to be fixed with surgery.