MONDAY, July 9, 2012 (HealthDay News) -- Uncircumcised boys are at higher risk for urinary tract infections, common bacterial infections that can scar the kidneys if untreated, according to a new study.
The Canadian researchers also found the infection risk is greater regardless of whether or not the boys have a visible urethra.
Circumcision involves removal of the foreskin at the tip of the penis.
For the study, published July 9 in the journal CMAJ, the researchers analyzed information on nearly 400 boys who visited an emergency room with symptoms of a urinary tract infection. Forty of these boys had not been circumcised and had a visible urethra; 269 weren't circumcised and had a partially visible or nonvisible urethra; and 84 were circumcised.
"We thought that incomplete foreskin retractability with a poorly visible urethral [opening] may be associated with increased risk of urinary tract infection," the study's co-author, Dr. Sasha Dubrovsky, of Montreal Children's Hospital at McGill University Health Center, said in a journal news release. "However, we found no difference in risk with degree of visibility of the urethral opening."
The researchers pointed out that boys with a completely visible urethra were also at higher risk of infection. They noted, however, that this finding was based on a small sample size and is not supported by previous research.
"We suggest that clinicians should consider circumcision status alone, not the degree of urethral visibility, when stratifying risk for boys presenting to the emergency department with symptoms suggesting a urinary tract infection," the researchers said.
The study does not show that not circumcising boys causes infection, merely that the risk for infection is greater among these boys.
The U.S. National Institutes of Health provides more information on circumcision.