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What are the medical benefits and risks to circumcision?

Deborah Mulligan
Deborah Mulligan on behalf of MDLIVE
Pediatrics
Parents who choose circumcision often do so based on religious beliefs (Some groups such as followers of the Jewish and Islamic faiths practice circumcision for religious and cultural reasons), concerns about hygiene, or social reasons, such as the wish to have their son look like other men in the family.  Medical benefits include prevention of phimosis (a condition in uncircumcised males that makes foreskin retraction impossible); a slightly lower risk of urinary tract infection; a lower risk of getting cancer of the penis; a slightly lower risk of getting sexually transmitted infections including HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

Although circumcision carries some medical benefits, it also carries potential risks — as does any surgical procedure. These risks are small, but you should be aware of both the possible advantages and the problems before you make your decision. Complications of newborn circumcision are uncommon, occurring in between 0.2% to 3% of cases. Of these, the most frequent are minor bleeding and local infection, both of which can be easily treated by your doctor.

There are medical benefits and risks to circumcision. Possible benefits include:

A lower risk of urinary tract infections (UTIs). Keep in mind that UTIs affect only 1 percent or less of men who are not circumcised. A lower risk of penile cancer. Keep in mind that penile cancer is very rare in both men who are or are not circumcised. A possible lower risk of sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Keep in mind that practicing safe sex, including using a condom, is the best protection against STIs.

The risks of circumcision include:

Pain. If you decide to have your baby circumcised, you can ask that a numbing medicine be put on your baby's penis to lessen the pain. A low risk of bleeding or infection.

These risks are higher when circumcision is performed on older babies, boys, and men.

This answer is based on source informationfrom the National Women's Health Information Center.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.