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Male infant circumcision has a 200 to one risk-benefit: research

8 February 2017
The kindest cut? Male circumcision

There is a 200 to 1 risk-benefit in favour of infant male circumcision compared to the lifetime risk of being an uncircumcised male, a new study in today’s World Journal of Clinical Pediatrics reveals.

The new study by researchers at the University Sydney, UNSW Sydney and several teaching hospitals reports that uncircumcised males face an 80 per cent risk of developing a foreskin-related condition requiring medical attention in their lifetime.

By comparison, the procedural risk associated with infant male circumcision experiencing an adverse event is approximately 1 in 250, or less than one percent.

"Our systematic review of the current scientific evidence finds the protection afforded by early infant male circumcision against infections and other adverse medical conditions exceed the associated risks by 200 to one,” said the study’s lead author, Dr Brian Morris, Professor Emeritus at the University of Sydney.

“Over their lifetime more than one in two uncircumcised males will suffer an adverse medical condition caused by their foreskin.

“Strong evidence shows no adverse effect on penile function, sexual sensitivity or pleasure,” he said, adding that “circumcision is a desirable public health intervention. It is also cost saving.”

The researchers’ risk-benefit estimates are based on an analysis of research data compiled from 140 high quality research studies relevant to Australia.

The studies had determined the level of protection male circumcision affords against individual conditions such as urinary infections, inflammatory conditions, sexually transmitted infections and genital cancers, as well as the level of risk posed by the circumcision procedure itself in infancy.

“Australia and New Zealand should follow the lead of The American Academy of Pediatrics and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in facilitating education, provider training, patient access and affordability of circumcision of male infants and boys,” the article concluded.

Professor Morris added that the current public hospital policy in all states of permitting male circumcision only for medical reasons was “penny wise, pound foolish” as it is costing the health system millions of dollars in treatment of preventable conditions.

“The enormous benefit but low risk makes early infant circumcision akin to childhood vaccination,” he said.

Male circumcision is a desirable public health intervention.
Professor Emeritus, Dr Brian Morris

Dan Gaffney

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