Circumcision May Lower Risk for Prostate Cancer
In the continuing debate over the need for circumcision in infants, a new study reports that men who have prostate cancer are less likely to be circumcised.
Earlier studies have already shown that circumcision lowers the risk for urinary tract infections, penile cancer, and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) like HIV, herpes simplex, and human papillomavirus.
Circumcision is the removal of the foreskin that covers the penis tip. The procedure is usually done shortly after birth, often for cultural or religious reasons. Some people have argued that circumcision isn't necessary, and moreover that it is painful and results in lowered sexual sensation.
Researchers at the University of Washington in Seattle looked at the medical records and surveys of 1,754 men who had been diagnosed with prostate cancer and 1,645 men of similar ages and backgrounds who did not have cancer.
They found that men who were circumcised had a 15 percent lower risk for prostate cancer than men who were not circumcised.
The men with prostate cancer were less likely to have been circumcised even after the researchers adjusted their statistics so they wouldn't be thrown off by income, education level, or race.
The study, published in the journal Cancer, doesn't prove that circumcision prevents cancer. But study author Jonathan Wright, M.D., says that it helps explain why uncircumcised men are at greater risk for STDs. And once in the body, he says, the bacteria or viruses that cause these diseases could find their way to the prostate.
There, "they set up shop in the prostate and turn on inflammation, and then the inflammation leads to cancer development," Dr. Wright speculates.
Natasha Larke at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine gives the study high marks but says it had limitations. Even if the possible effect of circumcision is confirmed, she says, the effect appears to be modest.
Always talk with your health care provider to find out more information.