Several weeks ago there was a news item on the role of circumcision in prostate cancer. This was based on a research paper published in the British Journal of Urology International (March 2014 issue) by researchers from the Biostatistics Department, Quebec University, Canada. The article highlighted the benefits of male circumcision. Read on to discover more about circumcision and its relationship with prostate cancer.
What is circumcision?
Male circumcision is a surgical procedure when the skin (foreskin or prepuce) covering the tip of the penis is removed. The origin of the procedure is unknown, although it has been practiced for several centuries.
Various medical trials have shown that male circumcision reduces heterosexual acquisition of HIV, herpes simplex virus 2, human papillomavirus (HPV), and genital ulcer in men. In addition, it reduces HPV, genital ulcer disease, bacterial vaginosis, trichomoniasis in their female partners. In fact, some studies have shown a reduction in the risk of HIV acquisition by 50-60%. World Health Organisation and joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS proposed reaching 80% MC coverage in HIV endemic areas.
Circumcision is a cost-effective procedure in developing countries where HIV is endemic. Also, women with circumcised partners are at a lower risk of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) ranging from HPV to Trichomonas vaginalis.
How does circumcision protect against diseases
There have been various theories have been put forward for the protection caused by male circumcision. Some of the possibilities include a thickness of the foreskin and specific bacterial environment. Finally, there is also evidence to suggest that penile cancer is less common in men who had circumcision and a reduced risk of cervical cancer in women. Some doctors and scientists even go to the extent of calling male circumcision as a surgical ‘vaccine’ against a variety of infections. Male circumcision is also beneficial because and it protects their partners too. Overall the benefits outweigh risks of an operation.
The disadvantages of male circumcision
There are no major disadvantages with male circumcision. The main effect of circumcision is reduction the sensitivity of the glans penis (tip of the penis). This may actually prolong sexual activity by delaying the male orgasm. It may also cause ulceration of the opening of the urethra (urethral meatus – the opening of the urinary passage in the penis) although this is rare and gets less with time. There is nothing to fear about male circumcision. In experienced hands, it is a safe procedure and can be performed at any age.
With regard to prostate cancer, the above-mentioned research suggests that men particularly black men who had circumcision after the age of 35 had a reduced risk of prostate cancer. Other studies have indicated that circumcision before first sexual intercourse is associated with a reduction in the relative risk of Prostate Cancer. These findings are consistent with research supporting the infectious/inflammation pathway in the development of prostate cancer.
The advice, therefore, is that if there is a medical indication for circumcision, do not hesitate to get an opinion and circumcision done. If the skin is healthy and presents no problem there is no need to have a circumcision but look after the foreskin well.
To discover more about male circumcision and the treatments available at London Urologist, click here.
Mr Vinod Nargund is a Consultant Urological Surgeon specialising in Urological cancer, male sexual and fertility problems. He was trained in Urology at the City Hospital Belfast, the Royal Infirmary Bradford and the Churchill and John Radcliffe Hospitals in Oxford. You can view all of his qualifications on his biography page.