Circumcision and the AAP
Just recently the AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) has issued a new policy statement on circumcision. Frankly I have never considered myself an intactivist- they seem a little angry to me. But also frankly, this statement has made me think that maybe they are angry for a reason.
You can read the AAP statement in full HERE.
The basic concept is that circumcision is now recommended (or is it?! it isn't really that clear) because the benefits outweigh the risks. The benefits are as follows,
"Specific benefits identified included prevention of urinary tract infections, penile cancer, and transmission of some sexually transmitted infections, including HIV."As is true to fashion for those policy statement makers over at the AAP and ACOG- they didn't actually include any REFERENCES for their statement. Just vagueness about how leaving one's son intact is sure to result in HIV (death) or urinary tract infections (OUCH), and the like.
Don't worry though- I took the liberty to look up the information FOR THEM! I know policy making doctors are busy so I am up in the middle of the night after sweeping my floor bringing you the latest and greatest in medical research.
YOU. ARE. WELCOME.
Let's begin with the big banana- HIV and circumcision. The first study I found that linked circumcision (pardon me- NOT being circumcised) to HIV was this one.
But wait- it also looked at other factors- It seems that,
"Analysis of behavioural and biological factors showed that old age, sex work, lifetime number of sexual partners, receptive anal sex, lack of circumcision, genital diseases and lack of formal education were related to a higher HIV-1 seroprevalence."Dude. Sucks that I am a woman. Maybe they should cut me off too. I could give you a disease.
This can't possibly be the study they were thinking of when the AAP made that statement. It was actually done in India, so it seems kind of distant to have a direct impact on little American babies. Must keep looking for good research to support this statement.
Here is another one, a meta-analysis. This might be what they were getting at. This compilation of studies done in sub-Saharan Africa found that,
" Male circumcision is associated with a significantly reduced risk of HIV infection among men in sub-Saharan Africa, particularly those at high risk of HIV. These results suggest that consideration should be given to the acceptability and feasibility of providing safe services for male circumcision as an additional HIV prevention strategy in areas of Africa where men are not traditionally circumcised."OK- so men in sub-Saharan who are circumcised have a lower risk of HIV infection (oh, and they have an even higher risk if they are at high risk.) Lots of studies- so this is good. Does this study apply to you if you have an infant child in ANOTHER part of the world? That is for you to decide. Even the people who did the study did NOT recommend circumcision to babies in America (or anywhere else)- but to MEN in THIS PART OF THE WORLD who were HIGH RISK. I think it is worth it to point out that the researches on these studies did not (that I could ever find) recommend that routine infant circumcision be done simply because of their findings.
Here is another study, this one in Australia and done among homosexual men. It however DID NOT find that circumcision was a risk factor. They must not have looked at this study. It found that,
"Our data showing that there is no difference in the circumcision status of men infected by receptive or insertive UAI, in a population with a circumcision prevalence of approximately 75%, suggests that circumcision is not strongly protective against HIV infection in homosexual men."
Here is another study (also in sub-Saharan Africa). This one looked at the link between circumcision, HIV and cervical cancer in women. This study DID find a link between intact men and the spread of certain diseases. However- the researches did not recommend routine INFANT circumcision. Instead they recommend (in THESE areas)
"Although male circumcision must not substitute for other HIV and STI prevention strategies , the international public health and medical community should consider the implications and practicalities of integrating safe, voluntary male circumcision services with existing HIV prevention programs, particularly in countries with low prevalence of male circumcision and high prevalence of sexually-transmitted HIV."There are many other articles on HIV transmission and the circumcision link. I recommend you look for them yourself. Simply Google, "research articles circumcision and disease transmission" and you will find plenty to keep you busy.
Let's move on though to the UTI (urinary tract infection) circumcision link. I personally have had TWO UTIs in my life and let me tell you, they are uncomfortable. I actually took antibiotics. If only I could have prevented them by cutting off part of my genitals....
Here is a study that tries to determine if circumcision is worth it to prevent UTI. They found,
"Until this additional information is available, the present data do not support the routine circumcision of boys to prevent UTI. However, circumcision should be considered in those with recurrent UTI or significantly increased risk of UTI."This must not have been the study that the AAP was referring to because....the researches actually don't recommend routine circumcision because the risk of circumcision outweighs the potential benefit. (My emphasis added.) They also mentioned that they low-balled the circumcision complication rate (guessing it around 2% but they admit it could be higher) and they STILL don't recommend routine circumcision EVEN with the assumed low complication rate of circumcision.
Here are a few more research articles on the subject, should you care to read them. (Notice how I include this stuff- it is because I think you are smart enough to check your facts- EVEN if I disagree with the findings.)
This one found that circumcision did lower UTI risk for the first year of life (but they still didn't recommend it routinely.)
Here is another on the subject.
I have to admit- I am feeling tired. The AAP also mentioned the increase in penile cancer as a reason to circumcise boys. Feel free to Google that yourself.
I hope that we can all do our OWN research on any procedure for our children that cannot be undone and which may or may not benefit them. I hope also that we can have honest conversations with our children as they grow about how their lifestyle choices and can impact their incidence of contracting serious STD's. I hope we can respect our children enough to allow them to make their own choices, no matter how painful that may be.
I wish you wisdom as you make the many, many hard choices you will have as a parent. And I hope that those we respect and whose opinions we value can make recommendations that are really for the health and safety of our children.
(As an aside, this is not meant as an insult to parents who choose to circumcise. This is a criticism of a physicians group making a pseudo (but not quite...I am honestly not sure what the point is) recommendation on something without supplying data to support their claims. Not only that, what seems to be the most upsetting about this statement is that no definite mandates are made- EXCEPT one- which is they want to be reimbursed by insurance for this procedure when they do it. This seems to me, quite frankly, to be more about money, insurance, and getting reimbursed for a very common procedure, more than it is about babies or circumcision. That is what is most disappointing about this statement- that those who should have the best interests of our children at heart seem most interested in getting paid for something that may or may not be necessary. Just my two cents.)