New study stirs debate on circumcision



    To circumcise or not to circumcise male newborns — that is the question running through the minds of many parents and pediatricians alike.

    On March 1, the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a new recommendation stating that the benefits of circumcision are not significant enough for it to recommend circumcision as a routine procedure. The recommendation came after analysis of almost 40 years of available medical research on circumcision.

    “I agree with the statement,” said John Wynn, MD, a pediatrician at Utah Valley Pediatrics. “I think (circumcision) is a cosmetic procedure.”

    Wynn said most parents circumcise their sons because they want them to look like their dads. Many fathers recall that uncircumcised boys were embarrassed in junior high locker rooms, and they do not want their sons to be subject to that ridicule, he said.

    Wynn tells parents that circumcision is an elective, cosmetic procedure. He said the parents’ choice usually depends on whether the father was circumcised or not.

    Wynn said ethnicity also plays a role in parents’ decision to circumcise their sons. He said more than 90 percent of the Caucasians in Utah have their sons circumcised. However, when he was at Stanford five years ago, only 65 to 75 percent of the Hispanic population circumcised their sons.

    Wynn said he would circumcise his son after considering both cosmetic reasons and cleanliness issues.

    Stephanie Anderson, 21, a senior from Salt Lake majoring in recreational therapy, said she and her husband have not really discussed circumcision, but she assumes they will circumcise their sons because it is a pretty standard procedure.

    Anderson said that before their child is born, they will examine the medical pros and cons of circumcision.

    “It’s not that big of an issue for us,” she said, “but we will definitely consider the alternatives and make an informed decision.”

    Some people are not so sure about the necessity of circumcision.

    “If God meant it to be that way, then why should we try to change it?” asked Allen Arnoldsen, 34, accountant for the Kennedy Center.

    Arnoldsen had his son circumcised because of cleanliness/health issues and he thought it was important that his son fit in. Now, however, he said he is against circumcision because there is no compelling reason from a medical standpoint.

    “I’m in favor of it, although I understand the reasons well for not doing it. I’ve seen enough problems with cleanliness and (other concerns), so I guess I’m kind of biased,” said Gus Hoffman, MD, a pediatrician at the Student Health Center. “The pendulum has swung back and forth among pediatricians for years.”

    Hoffman said circumcision works well as long as it’s done properly at birth, but most uncircumcised children will grow up and do very well in life.

    For uncircumcised males, there is an increase in urinary infections and a small incidence of local infections, Hoffman said. He also said there is a very small incidence of cancer later in life.

    According to Hoffman, one out of every 100 uncircumcised males get urinary infections, compared to one out of every 1,000 circumcised males who get urinary infections. He also said about 10 out of every 1 million uncircumcised males get cancer.

    “Basically, it boils down to the personal opinions of the (parents) and the experience of the physician,” Hoffman said.

    He said a deciding factor for most circumcisions is whether or not the father had it done.

    He said if the person performing the circumcision does a poor job, there can be negative effects such as bleeding and pain, but these can be easily controlled.

    Hoffman counseled parents to make an informed choice; they need to discuss the choice with their physician, and if they decide to go through with the circumcision, pain reliever should be used.

    He said that circumcision is a little less common than it was 20 years ago but more prevalent in the Utah County population than it was five to 10 years ago.

    When parents are trying to decide whether or not to circumcise their children, Hoffman said he makes sure they have a full understanding of the pros, cons and risks of circumcision.

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