The Circumcision Risk Debate Gets Fired Up Again Due To New Data From Mayo Clinic Proceedings

Dawn Papple

The circumcision debate is winding back up after new data was published by The Mayo Clinic Proceedings. It stated that half of uncircumcised males will experience at least one adverse medical condition from their lack of circumcision. The findings were presented by Brian Morris of the University of Sydney and his U.S.colleagues.

"Infant circumcision should be regarded as equivalent to childhood vaccination. As such, it would be unethical not to routinely offer parents circumcision for their baby boy. Delay puts the child's health at risk and will usually mean it will never happen," Morris wrote.
"The risks of immunisation are justified by the fact that the individual risk to the patient is extremely small, however serious, but the benefits are great, since the incidence of the disease in unimmunised populations may be very high, and may even be a majority of the population... We are not certain at present whether AIDS is going to be an even more widespread disease in the future or whether it will be abolished by some new treatment. Therefore, it would be hard to justify mass circumcision with such a small potential gain," wrote Professor Hutson,
 of the Royal Children's Hospital.

The American Academy of Pediatrics states, "The health benefits of newborn male circumcision outweigh the risks, but the benefits are not great enough to recommend universal newborn circumcision." The video presented by Morris includes benefits to future female partners in the risk-benefits-analysis. Anti-circumcision activists argue that this presumes that all boys will eventually be sexually active, sexually irresponsible, and heterosexual. Given that none of these factors is guaranteed and that all medical procedures should entail weighing the individual's risks and benefits, including risks to female partners in the analysis is medically unethical.

According to Morris and his colleagues, there are increased risks of penile cancer and prostate cancer from refusing circumcision. Anti-circumcision activists claim that these are exaggerated, adult risks that the male could address when he is of a consensual age. They mention that penile cancer occurs in 0.001 percent of American men, so any increase risk due to circumcision status could not be considered statistically significant. The 15-year relative survival rate for prostate cancer is 94 percent and the disease is usually not the cause of death.

Morris' data shows that the risks of circumcision are negligible, using his earlier research as evidence. "In a landmark systematic review in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, Dr. Morris, with John Krieger, MD, of the Department of Urology at the University of Washington, Seattle, found that there is no adverse effect of circumcision on sexual function, sensitivity, or pleasure," reported Elsevier Connect writer, Rachel Gleeson. Doctors Opposing Circumcision disagrees.

The WHOLE Network also questions Morris' circumcision facts. The organization posted to its Facebook page, "Another pro-circumcision junk article compliments of Brian Morris, lying through his teeth to push his disgusting agenda. He claims a 77% circumcision rate for the US in 2010. That's 20% higher than the actual rate reported by the CDC for that year." The CDC maintains records of circumcision trends and confirms the national rate of newborn circumcision in 2010 was 58.3 percent.

The data from the Mayo Clinic and Brian Morris has resulted in circumcision risks again being debated with passion on social media outlets such as Twitter.

— GujjuBhai (@mehulgandhi) April 3, 2014

— Raven (@4ravenwa) April 3, 2014

— UNAIDS Science now (@UNAIDSciencenow) April 3, 2014

— Nursing Review NZ (@NursingReviewNZ) April 2, 2014

— Luke Johnson (@johnson) March 31, 2014

— Marie Bardsley (@MarieBard) April 3, 2014