Circumcision in men appears to lower the risk of acquiring a sexually transmitted infection, according to the findings of a 25-year study.
The November issue of Pediatrics which reports the study suggests that circumcision may lower the risk of acquiring and spreading such infections by up to 50 percent, which would therefore suggest "substantial benefits" for routine neonatal circumcision.
This study is only one of many which have analyzed this controversial topic. Although most research has found that circumcision reduces the rates of HIV, syphilis and genital ulcers, the results are more mixed for other STDs.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics the evidence is "complex and conflicting," and therefore concludes that, at present, the evidence is insufficient to support routine neonatal circumcision.
In the present study, the researchers analyzed data collected for the Christchurch Health and Development Study, which included a large birth cohort of children from New Zealand. Male children were divided into two groups based on circumcision status before 15 years of age. The presence of a sexually transmitted infection between 18 and 25 years of age was determined by questionnaire.
Lead author Dr. David M. Fergusson and colleagues, from the Christchurch School of Medicine and Health Sciences reported that the 356 uncircumcised boys had a 2.66-fold increased risk of sexually transmitted infection compared with the 154 circumcised boys.
In addition it was found that this elevated risk was largely unchanged after accounting for potential confounders, such as number of sexual partners and unprotected sex.
According to the authors' estimations if routine neonatal circumcision been in place, the rate of sexually transmitted infections in the current cohort would have been reduced by roughly 48 percent.
The authors conclude that this analysis shows that the benefits of circumcision for reducing the risk of sexually transmitted infection "may be substantial." Adding, 'The public health issues raised by these findings clearly involve weighing the longer-term benefits of routine neonatal circumcision in terms of reducing risks of infection within the population, against the perceived costs of the procedure."