Clinical Benefits of Circumcision Remain Unclear

More research needed to establish whether or not procedure prevents infections and cancer

TUESDAY, Jan. 12 (HealthDay News) -- Although strong evidence shows that circumcision can prevent HIV infection in sub-Saharan African men, it's unclear if the procedure is associated with an overall reduced risk of sexually transmitted infections, urinary tract infections or penile cancer, according to a study in the January/February issue of the Annals of Family Medicine.

Caryn L. Perera, of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons in Adelaide, Australia, and colleagues conducted a systematic review of eight randomized controlled trials.

The researchers found that circumcised sub-Saharan African men were significantly less likely to acquire HIV than uncircumcised men (odds ratio, 0.44), but that this benefit was uncertain in other areas of the world. They also found that circumcised men were significantly less likely to report genital ulcers (3.1 versus 5.8 percent) and that circumcision seldom resulted in severe complications.

"Patients who request circumcision in the belief that it bestows clinical benefits must be made aware of the lack of consensus and robust evidence, as well as the potential medical and psychosocial harms of the procedure," the authors conclude. "As the efficacy of prophylactic non-therapeutic male circumcision has not been comprehensively studied in neonates, it would be inappropriate to recommend widespread neonatal circumcision for this purpose."

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