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Circumcision on Decline

Sep 15, 2011

There has been a drop in the number of newborn male circumcisions in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Using data from three different sources, the CDC determined that the number of newborn boys circumcised in hospitals decreased about 5% between 1999 and 2010.

According to the source data, the current circumcision rate for newborn boys is between 50% and 60%.

The analysis did not take into account circumcisions performed outside of hospitals.

There are many possible reasons for the decrease.

Insurance coverage is one. Not all insurance companies cover circumcision and Medicaid, a government-sponsored program, only covered it in 33 states as of 2009. (In those states, circumcision rates were 24% higher than in states where there was no Medicaid coverage for circumcision.)

There is also mixed sentiment among the medical community on whether circumcision is truly necessary. For example, the American Academy of Pediatrics states, “Scientific studies show some medical benefits of circumcision. However, these benefits are not sufficient for the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) to recommend that all infant boys be circumcised.”

At birth, infant boys have a hood of skin, or foreskin, covering the tip of the penis. Circumcision involves surgically removing that hood of skin.

Why do parents choose to have their sons circumcised?

There appear to be some health benefits. Circumcised boys tend to have fewer urinary tract infections. And according to some studies, circumcised men might be better protected against HIV and penile cancer. They also might be less likely to pass human papillomavirus (HPV) to their female partners. Some types of HPV cause cervical cancer and genital warts.

Some parents choose to circumcise their sons so that they will look like the other men in the family.

Circumcision is also an important custom in the Jewish and Islamic faiths.

But some parents are concerned that circumcision causes an infant unnecessary pain and leads to other complications, such as bleeding and infection.

Others feel that circumcision is a form of genital mutilation and have organized to ban the practice altogether. This fall, voters in San Francisco will decide on whether circumcision should be criminalized in their city. Activists aim to put this measure on a Santa Monica ballot next year.