Circumcision Rates Down 10 Percent Since 1970s; Reasons Abound

Thursday, 22 Aug 2013 02:46 PM

By Michael Mullins

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Circumcision rates in the United States have seen a 10 percent decline between 1979 and 2010, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Newborn circumcision, which involves the surgical removal of foreskin from a penis, has shrunk from 64.5 percent to slightly more than 58 percent, Health Day reported, citing the CDC report.

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"It hasn't been a stable decline," report co-author Maria Owings, a health statistician at CDC's National Center for Health Statistics, told Health Day.

Over the 32-year period, the circumcision rates fluctuated from a 1981 high of 65 percent to a 55 percent low in 2007, Owings added.

Whereas the 1980s saw relatively low circumcision rates overall throughout the decade, the rates increased during the 1990s before dropping off again at the start of the 21st century, Health Day reported.

Why the variation?

The study points to an evolving set of guidelines by medical groups, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), which according to the report said routine circumcision had no medical benefit in the 1970s, only to reverse its position in 1989 by saying there were potential benefits to the procedure.

Ten years later, the AAP again tweaked its findings, writing that despite there being benefits associated with the procedure there was insufficient evidence to recommend routine circumcision, according to the CDC report.

For the moment, AAP, though not recommending circumcision for all baby boys, presents evidence on its website that promotes the procedure, showing that circumcision lowers the risk of urinary tract infections in infants, prevents the transmission of HIV, genital herpes, human papillomavirus and other sexually transmitted diseases later in life.

AAP President Dr. Thomas McInerny attributes the shift in circumcision rates to interactions between families and their physicians.

"Parents are making shared, or what we call informed, decisions now," McInerny told Health Day. "In years gone by, when you told patients they should do this or that, most of the time they said 'yes doctor' and they didn't ask any questions."

Circumcision rates are higher in the U.S. than in Europe, according to the study, and more prevalent among white babies compared with black and Hispanic babies in the U.S., The Wall Street Journal reported.

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Risks associated with having your baby circumcised, which are rare, include: pain to the baby, potential irritation of the glans, and the foreskin being cut too short or too long and it not healing properly, according to WebMD.com.

Related stories:

Does Male Circumcision Affect Sensitivity?

Male Circumcision Helps Africa Fight AIDS

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