2 min read

* More than 75% of boys worldwide are not circumcised.

* The warm, moist area underneath the foreskin can provide an ideal breeding ground for bacteria, leading to infections known as balanoposthitis. These infections can cause pain, inflammation and ulcerated tissue. They can be treated with antibiotics, but they may recur.

* Studies comparing disease rates among circumcised and uncircumcised men in AIDS-ravaged Africa show on average, 3 times more HIV infection among the uncircumcised. One of a group of HIV infected gay men in the U.S. also found a correlation. Dr. William Cameron, an Associate Professor at the U. of Ottawa in Canada who co-authored several African studies, theorizes that the uncircumcised foreskin sustains tiny abrasions during intercourse, allowing the AIDS virus to enter the bloodstream. Several studies have found that such sexually transmitted diseases as syphilis and chancroid also occur somewhat more frequently among the uncircumcised. Experts caution, however, that the studies may not have been adequately controlled for other factors that could account for higher rates of infection in uncircumcised men (such as socio-economic background).

* In 1986, Dr. Thomas Wiswell of Jefferson Medical College of Philadelphia studied the records of more than 200,000 male infants born in U.S. Army hospitals worldwide. He found that uncircumcised boys were 10 times more likely to be hospitalized for urinary tract infections than their circumcised contemporaries. He later found that 1.4 percent of uncircumcised male infants suffered UTIs in the 1st year of life. One in 100 of those will have kidney damage.

* National Cancer Institute statistics show about 800 cases of penile cancer a year, about 200 of them fatal. While rare, penile cancer can be a particularly savage illness, with amputation of the organ a common treatment. Studies have found much lower rates of cancer of the penis in circumcised men.

* Some research has also suggested a link between circumcision status and cancer of the cervix, which is more common in sexual partners of uncircumcised men.

* Dr. Wiswell, who opposed circumcision before he conducted his UTI research, has his own perspective on the question of numbers, “It’s the accumulation of benefits,” he says. “if circumcision only protected against UTIs, I might hesitate. But there’s evidence that it may also protect against cancer of the penis, foreskin infections and sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV. You get multiple benefits from one simple procedure.