A new study has shown that circumcision rates among US baby boys have fallen. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which published the study in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, circumcision rates dropped from around 62 percent in 1999 to 57 percent in 2008.
Researchers got their data from surveys on male circumcisions. During the decade before that time period, researchers reported that circumcision had increased. The CDC says that the decrease in circumcision rates could be due to many different factors, including the fact that many state Medicaid plans do not cover the procedure.
“A recent study found that, after controlling for other factors, hospitals in states in which Medicaid covers routine male circumcision had circumcision rates that were 24 percentage points higher than hospitals in states without such coverage," said agency spokesman Scott Bryan.
Additionally, controversy over medical benefits of circumcision has been on the rise, with some critics claiming it’s not justifiable and can lead to mental health issues later on. On the other hand, there are benefits to circumcision. “There is some evidence that circumcision improves the health of boys”, said Dr. Jeff Brosco, professor of pediatrics at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. These benefits, he says, can include a lower risk of urinary tract infections and less risk of passing along sexually transmitted diseases. “There is no evidence that there are real dangers associated with circumcision,” Brosco added. "In the long-term the benefits seem to outweigh the risks."
“The publication of three recent studies showing that circumcision of adult, African, heterosexual men reduces their risk for acquiring human immunodeficiency virus infection and other sexually transmitted infections has stimulated interest in the practice of routine newborn male circumcision,” the researchers write.
Women who have sex with uncircumcised men appear to be at higher risk of cervical cancer. And a lack of circumcision has been linked to the spread of human papillomavirus (HPV) infection. HPV can cause cervical cancer.
According to the CDC, circumcision rates increased from 48.3% to 61.1% between 1988 and 2000. In 1999, the American Academy of Pediatrics declared that there was not enough data to recommend the routine circumcision of baby boys. They reaffirmed their position in 2005. That position, according to the CDC, may have contributed to the current drop in circumcision rates.
The new report reveals that in all three measurements used by the CDC, the number of circumcisions performed dropped over the last decade. For example, the National Hospital Discharge Survey, conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics, showed that of the nearly 20 million babies surveyed, fewer than 12 million were circumcised between 1999 and 2008. That's a decrease from 62.5% to 56.9% over that decade. The other two measurements showed similar decreases.
The researchers point out that health coverage likely plays a significant role in circumcision rates. Hospitals in the 33 states where routine circumcision is covered by Medicaid had rates that were 24% higher than in hospitals that lacked such coverage.
The CDC says on its web site that it is still developing its own recommendations concerning circumcision. In the meantime, “individual men may wish to consider circumcision as an additional HIV prevention measure ... in conjunction with other proven prevention measures (abstinence, mutual monogamy, reduced number of sex partners, and correct and consistent condom use).”
Circumcision is a ritual obligation of surgical removal of the foreskin over the tip of the penis for infant Jewish boys, and is also a common rite among Muslims, who account for the largest share of circumcised men worldwide.