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Task Force on Circumcision
American Academy of Pediatrics
Benefits of Male Circumcision Outweigh Risks
A Call to Universal Circumcision
After a comprehensive review of the latest medical and scientific evidence, the American Academy of Pediatrics concludes that all males should be circumcised, preferably at birth, as a matter of both personal medical well-being and general public health to protect themselves, their future sexual partners, and society as a whole from a number of debilitating, life-threatening, and costly diseases.
In 1999, the AAP declared that “scientific evidence demonstrates potential medical benefits of newborn male circumcision,” but we cautioned that “these data are not sufficient to recommend routine neonatal circumcision.” This position, reaffirmed in 2005, understandably left parents of newborn males in a quandary. While the medical benefits of circumcision were established, such as a substantial reduction in urinary tract infection, the evidence was not then compelling to recommend that every male be circumcised. Parents were left to draw their own conclusions, which meant that social, familial, and other non-medical concerns often took priority over health care in the decision-making process.
With substantial new scientific evidence over the last four years, the AAP now recommends that all newborn males be circumcised, and we encourage all public and private health insurers and medical providers to cover, promote, and establish efficacious ways to achieve universal male circumcision. We endorse routine neonatal circumcision, with all the appropriate analgesics to alleviate pain, and we recommend that all males, regardless of age, be circumcised. Circumcision not only confers life-long benefits on the male, but it also protects his female partners and society as a whole.
Among its other benefits, circumcision reduces a male’s chance of acquiring HIV by at least 50 percent, reduces his risk of acquiring HPV by 35 percent and spreading HPV to his female partners, reduces his chances of contracting Herpes Simplex Virus Type II by 28 percent, and reduces the likelihood of causing cervical cancer in his female partners. The AAP does not assert that circumcision eliminates these painful and costly medical scourges, but it will significantly reduce them. These health benefits to males and females far outweigh any risks posed by circumcision, and to suggest otherwise is to engage in a head-in-the-sand approach to science for political and non-medical reasons.
We recognize that the decision to circumcise children lies with the parent, so, consequently, just as with AAP-recommended vaccinations, an option not to circumcise must be made available. But the AAP concludes that sound science dictates the goal of universal male circumcision, regardless of the race, nationality, religion, age, or economic status of the male. A requirement by schools that all boys be circumcised before puberty is recommended, subject to exception for religious or deeply-held objection, or a rare medical necessity. But like the eradication of polio and measles through a policy of universal vaccination, the public health benefits of circumcision are best conferred when adopted by all.
This position in no way impugns the decision of many parents in recent years that left their sons uncircumcised. The decision not to circumcise was perfectly understandable, particularly in the context of the AAP’s former position. But medical science advances, and health care requirements must change with that evidence. Boys left uncircumcised, particularly as they become sexually active, increase their own risks and those with whom they are intimate. That is why the AAP encourages both public and private health insurers and health providers to establish cost-effective options to circumcise both young and older males. And we encourage parents of uncircumcised boys to take advantage of those options as quickly as possible.
Finally, we believe that the evidence for universal male circumcision is so compelling that the United States Government, through the Surgeon General, the Public Health Service, the Centers for Disease Control, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, and all other relevant agencies, needs to engage in a public information campaign and improve affordable access to circumcision for all American males of every age. Under the leadership of the World Health Organization, many other governments have taken such a pro-active lead. The American Academy of Pediatrics urges the U.S. Government to do the same. A country with the greatest medical scientists, practitioners, and institutions should once again take the lead on this critical public health mission.