More than one million procedures each year, happening every 30 seconds, mean that three-quarters of American men are circumcised. But is it the best practice?
No medical society in the world calls the procedure necessary, and it continues to shift from a medical decision to a cultural one. While the prevalence across the States is dropping by about one percent each year, the decision to circumcise sons is an increasingly nuanced one for parents.
The turning point may have come in 1999, when a policy statement discredited the medical case for circumcision, suggesting that a reduced risk of urinary tract infections and penile cancer was enough to neither recommend the procedure nor discourage it.
Cleaning an uncircumcised penis just requires retracting the foreskin and rinsing it as one typically would in the shower. It does not mean that uncircumcised men are inherently dirtier.
Myth: Circumcision is just a small snip.
Fact: The surgical removal of the foreskin actually involves immobilizing the baby, inserting a metal probe that detaches the foreskin adhered to the head of the penis with the same type of tissue that adheres fingernails to their nail beds, slitting it and cutting off the equivalent of 15 square inches in an adult male.
Myth: Circumcision safeguards against sexual health issues later in life.
Fact: There is no link between circumcision and better health. The foreskin actually protects the head of the penis from injury and facilitates lubrication.
Myth: Circumcision improves genital hygiene.
Fact: Circumcision probably facilitates genital hygiene in that it’s easier to clean a circumcised penis. However, cleaning an uncircumcised penis just requires retracting the foreskin and rinsing it as one typically would in the shower. It does not mean that uncircumcised men are inherently dirtier.
Myth: Circumcision reduces the risk of STDs.
Fact: Studies have shown that circumcision does indeed reduce one’s risk of contracting herpes and certain strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV) since it rids the penis of a moist, favorable environment for STDs to survive. In turn, it could then decrease female cervical cancer, which is linked to HPV. But it does not help prevent against all STDs, like syphilis, for example.
Myth: Circumcision prevents UTIs.
Fact: Circumcision does not totally prevent UTIs. Researchers have said that it can prevent one UTI for every four circumcisions, but other factors still play a role. For example, premature babies are more susceptible to infection in general, regardless of circumcision status, and breastfed babies are better protected against UTIs, as well. Foreskin that has been forcibly retracted can also introduce harmful bacteria that causes UTIs.
Myth: Circumcision tapers men’s sexual pleasure.
Fact: Circumcision has been cited as a cause for decrease in men’s sexual pleasure. But a 2015 study found that penile sensitivity did not differ across circumcision status for any stimulus type or penile site. So it really doesn’t make a difference. Researchers have, however, found a decrease in women’s sexual pleasure, who have reported more orgasms with uncircumcised partners.