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Medical Indications for Male Circumcision Sparse

One in six males are circumcised, usually for cultural or religious reasons

FRIDAY, Dec. 7 (HealthDay News) -- One in six of the world's males are circumcised, predominantly for religious or cultural rather than medical reasons, according to a review published in the Dec. 8 issue of BMJ.

Padraig Malone and Henrik Steinbrecher, of the University of Southampton in Southampton, U.K., examined the medical indications for and complications of circumcision. The most common absolute indications for circumcision are phimosis secondary to balanitis xerotica obliterans and recurrent balanoposthitis, each of which affect fewer than 2 percent of children. Relative indications include urinary tract abnormalities leading to urinary infection and abnormalities of the foreskin.

According to the authors, clear evidence supporting this practice is lacking, however, and complications of the procedure can be severe. They estimate complication rates estimated as high as 7.4 percent.

In the same issue, whether or not male circumcision is an abuse of the rights of the child is debated in a Head to Head opinion piece. "Most circumcisions take place for religious rather than medical reasons," states Geoff Hinchley. He argues that "the practice is harmful and should be stopped." Kirsten Patrick believes that "the future sexual health benefits justify parental choice."

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