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Male circumcision: latest population figures revealed

8 March 2016
1 in 3 males are circumcised but the procedure is almost universal in Muslim and Jewish countries

Globally, one-third of males aged 15 and above are circumcised but male circumcision is almost universal in countries where the Muslim and Jewish faith are commonplace, according to the most accurate estimate among the world’s 237 countries.

Published in Population Health Metrics, the most recent estimate is based on data from the US Central Intelligence Agency data, population data for all 237 countries and United Nations figures for males aged 15–64 years.

Approximately half of all circumcisions were for religious and cultural reasons.

The prevalence of circumcision varies widely in western countries led by the USA (71 per cent), New Zealand (33 per cent), Australia (27 per cent), the UK (21 per cent), France (14 per cent), Germany (11 per cent), Sweden (5 per cent), Italy (3 per cent) and Ireland (1 per cent).

The estimate indicates that circumcision is higher among countries where the Muslim or Jewish faith are commonplace, such as Iran (100 per cent), Iraq (99 per cent), West Bank (99 per cent), Yemen (99 per cent), Indonesia (93 per cent), Syria (93 per cent), and Israel (92 per cent).

Led by Dr Brian Morris, Professor Emeritus at the University of Sydney, he and a research team from the USA and Europe scoured hundreds of publications to determine figures for each country.

“Our findings suggest that male circumcision prevalence globally is approximately 38 per cent, although the real percentage could be slightly higher or lower than this,” said Professor Morris.

“Given the known benefits and low risks of male circumcision and recent affirmative recommendations in the interests of public health and disease prevention by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the WHO and UNAIDS, these findings on male circumcision across geographies and cultures may help to guide policy development and resource allocation in all countries.”

Dan Gaffney

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