HISTORY: The practice of male circumcision goes back thousands of years. The earliest records of male circumcision date back to Egypt’s sixth dynasty, with an image on a sarcophagus depicting males being circumcised before entering the priesthood. Circumcision is also an important practice in Judaism that is linked to a covenant with God dating back to the time of Abraham. Muslims have also adhered to the ceremonial practice of circumcision for a long time. Circumcision is thought to be a rite of passage in some African and Oceanic societies. However, circumcision has also been used to identify and punish these groups, such as in Nazi Germany a man’s circumcision status was often used to determine if he was to be sent to a concentration camp. During the Armenian genocide in 1915, Armenian men and boys were forcibly circumcised. Circumcision was banned in Bulgaria in the 1930’s and then again in the 1980’s because of its connotations with the earlier Turkish occupation of the country. Presently, circumcision remains a debatable topic in the United States. (Source: Peter Aggleton, Professor at the University of London)
RISKS & Benefits: Understanding the risks can help determine if circumcision is the right choice for you or your child. The risks of circumcision today are:
- The most common complications in the U.S. are minor bleeding and local infection. The majority of complications are minor and large studies of male circumcision in the U.S. have found inpatient complication rates between 0.2% and 2%.
There are also potential benefits of circumcision:
- Research has documented a decreased risk of HIV transmission for men who are circumcised, and another study discovered the risk of HIV transmission from a man to a woman is higher if the man is uncircumcised. This is thought because the inner mucosa of the foreskin has a higher density of target cells (Langerhan cells) for HIV infection than penile tissue.
- It is also believed that circumcision reduces a man’s risk of syphilis, herpes, chlamydia, as well as other sexually transmitted diseases.
- Studies have found circumcision to be very cost-effective considering the number of infant UTIs, HIV infections, and other infections averted. (Source: The CDC)