Parents often want to know if the benefits of circumcision outweigh the risks. A large Australian study published last year looked into just this and found conclusive evidence in favour of circumcision for baby boys.
The study was carried out by doctors from the University of Sydney and University of New South Wales. Researchers carefully analysed the results of over 140 scientific studies to investigate the benefits of circumcision. The evidence was overwhelmingly in favour of circumcision. While only 0.4% of infants had complications from their surgery, an overwhelming 80% of uncircumcised males had problems that were associated with being uncircumcised.
Some of the benefits of circumcision identified by the study included:
Lower rates of urinary tract infections. Aside from the pain and distressing symptoms, urinary tract infections can become very serious; leading to sepsis and even kidney damage. Babies are especially vulnerable to the kidney damage that can occur. Circumcision means lower lifelong rates of these potentially damaging infections, with uncircumcised males being ten times as likely to develop a urinary tract infection.
No risk of phimosis. Phimosis occurs when the foreskin is too tight to be retracted, as is associated with pain, infections and difficulty urinating. 10% of uncircumcised males develop phimosis, and when this occurs, circumcision is often required.
Lower rates of cancer. Unfortunately, men who are circumcised are far more likely to develop penile and prostate cancer. Prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in males, while penile cancer is devastatingly damaging to a man's physical and mental health. Uncircumcised men are twenty times as likely to develop penile cancer.
Reduced risk of balanoposthitis. Balanoposthitis is an infection of the skin in the penis, particularly under or around the foreskin. As circumcision improves hygiene, it makes it much more difficult for circumcised males to develop an infection like this.
Reduced risk of sexually transmitted diseases. Circumcised men are less likely to contract sexually transmitted diseases including HIV, chlamydia and gonorrhoea. This can have long-term consequences, especially with a sexually transmitted disease as devastating as HIV.
After considering all of these benefits, the study recommended infant male circumcision in a setting such as Australia. In fact, the study's lead author, Dr. Brian Morris of the University of Sydney, suggested that circumcision was similar to childhood vaccinations in that it had huge benefits with a low rate of risks.
The Australian study was in keeping with recommendations from a number of groups internationally, including the Circumcision Academy of Australia and the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.