Local Urologist Advises Circumcision Pros & Cons As Debate Grows

Every parent should make informed decision, says San Francisco Bay Area doctor with Pacific Urology

Concord, Calif. (July 27, 2011) – Although one of the world’s oldest medical procedures, male circumcision has nonetheless become a hotly-contested topic across the globe in this year, giving pause to parents from San Francisco to sub-Saharan Africa in deciding whether to put newborn sons through the relatively minor but increasingly controversial surgery.

On November 8, San Francisco residents will vote on the so-called Male Mutilation Bill, potentially outlawing the procedure. But for parents of infant boys, circumcision offers both pros and cons, says Dr. Jeremy Lieb, a urologist who has done hundreds of circumcisions at the six-doctor Pacific Urology, in the east San Francisco Bay area.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has repeatedly stated that there is no absolute medical indication for routine circumcision of the newborn. Regardless, “Currently, there isn’t enough medical research to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that this is a medical procedure to be regulated by a governmental body,” said Dr. Lieb.

U.S. Circumcision Controversy and the Global Perspective:

In San Francisco, city leaders have put the so-called Male Mutilation Bill on the ballot for public vote on November 8. The bill would ban circumcision of male children and make it a misdemeanor punishable by $1,000 fine or up to one year in jail for physicians to perform. In the latest development, a group of Muslims and Jews have sued to block the measure, claiming infringement of religious freedom.

Elsewhere, 18 cash-strapped states to date have stopped funding Medicaid reimbursement for the procedure. In Great Britain, a men’s support group claiming to have suffered harm from circumcision recently held a public demonstration against the practice.

The pendulum is swinging the other direction in AIDS-plagued Africa, where calls for compulsory circumcision are coming from groups ranging from women in Swaziland to a Zulu king in South Africa.

Although 80 percent of American men are circumcised, opponents say it is a form of unnecessary, painful and even dangerous genital mutilation. In Great Britain, the portion of circumcised men is only about 10 percent, while in Germany, Russia and China and many other countries, the rate is about 1 percent. Proponents say circumcision is a cultural and religious tradition with health benefits, and ultimately is the right of individual parents to decide.

“People the world over are making passionate arguments both for and against the procedure. In the United States, most men are circumcised, while outside the U.S., there is much less debate and the vast majority of males are not. Every parent needs do careful research and make a well-informed decision,” said Dr. Lieb.

How is a parent to make the right choice? Dr. Lieb shares the important pros and cons for parents to consider before surgery.

Pros: Five Health Benefits of Male Circumcision –

  1. Hygiene. Circumcision makes it easy to wash the penis.
  2. Decreased risk of urinary tract infections. The risk of urinary tract infections in the first year of life is low; nonetheless, these infections may be up to 10 times as common in uncircumcised baby boys.
  3. Prevention of penile problems. Occasionally, the foreskin on an uncircumcised penis may be difficult or impossible to retract (phimosis). This can also lead to inflammation of the head of the penis.
  4. Decreased risk of penile cancer. Although cancer of the penis is rare, it’s less common in circumcised men.
  5. Decreased risk of sexually transmitted diseases. Safe sexual practices remain essential, but circumcised men may have a slightly lower risk of contracting or sharing certain sexually transmitted diseases – including HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

Cons: Physical and Psychological Arguments Against Circumcision –

  1. The health benefits are exaggerated or possibly even untrue, say some opponents. Several studies have suggested that circumcision may actually contribute to health problems, particularly in cases of premature infants, a family history of bleeding disorders, and certain penile anomalies. Additionally, all circumcision carries some risk of surgical complications.
  2. Circumcision is often painful and traumatic, changing infant behavior and disrupting the mother-son relationship.
  3. Harmful effects can appear later in life, as circumcision may interfere with male orgasm and other sexual function, as well as with the sexual fulfillment for women partners of circumcised men. Additionally, some researchers have linked circumcision to negative feelings in adult men and even to cases of post-traumatic stress disorder.