New scientific evidence shows the health benefits of newborn male circumcision outweigh the risks of the procedure.
But the benefits are not great enough to recommend routine circumcision for all newborn boys, says the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
“The decision on whether or not to circumcise should be made jointly by the parents with the pediatrician and with informed consent,” says Alan Y. Chang, M,D., a member of the Arizona Chapter of the AAP.
Circumcision is the irreversible, surgical removal of the foreskin from the penis. In recent years, some families that have decided against routine newborn circumcision for various reasons, says Chan, who is in practice with Palo Verde Pediatrics in Gilbert. “This is an elective, ‘don’t have to do it’ procedure,” he says.
Reasons for circumcision in the past have included the traditional — such as “looking like daddy,” looking like peers or to follow religious guidelines, says Chan.
Research reviewed by the AAP says the health benefits of circumcision include lower risks of acquiring HIV, genital herpes, human papilloma virus and syphilis. Circumcision lowers the risk of penile cancer over a lifetime and reduces the risk of cervical cancer in sexual partners. It also lowers the risk of urinary tract infections in the first year of life.
That being said, circumcision is still a surgical procedure and not without risk, however minor, says Chan. “Once again, the ultimate decision lies with the parents.”
The medical benefits alone may not outweigh other considerations for individual families. The medical data show that the procedure is safest and offers the most health benefits if performed during the newborn period.
The AAP policy recommends that infant circumcision be performed by trained and competent providers, using sterile techniques and effective pain management.
Parents who are considering newborn circumcision should speak with their child’s doctor about the benefits and risks of the procedure, says Chan, and discuss who will perform the circumcision.