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Circumcision Rates in the United States: Rising or Falling? What Effect Might the New Affirmative Pediatric Policy Statement Have?

Open AccessPublished:April 04, 2014DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.mayocp.2014.01.001

      Abstract

      The objective of this review was to assess the trend in the US male circumcision rate and the impact that the affirmative 2012 American Academy of Pediatrics policy statement might have on neonatal circumcision practice. We searched PubMed for the term circumcision to retrieve relevant articles. This review was prompted by a recent report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that found a slight increase, from 79% to 81%, in the prevalence of circumcision in males aged 14 to 59 years during the past decade. There were racial and ethnic disparities, with prevalence rising to 91% in white, 76% in black, and 44% in Hispanic males. Because data on neonatal circumcision are equivocal, we undertook a critical analysis of hospital discharge data. After correction for underreporting, we found that the percentage had declined from 83% in the 1960s to 77% by 2010. A risk-benefit analysis of conditions that neonatal circumcision protects against revealed that benefits exceed risks by at least 100 to 1 and that over their lifetime, half of uncircumcised males will require treatment for a medical condition associated with retention of the foreskin. Other analyses show that neonatal male circumcision is cost-effective for disease prevention. The benefits of circumcision begin in the neonatal period by protection against infections that can damage the pediatric kidney. Given the substantial risk of adverse conditions and disease, some argue that failure to circumcise a baby boy may be unethical because it diminishes his right to good health. There is no long-term adverse effect of neonatal circumcision on sexual function or pleasure. The affirmative 2012 American Academy of Pediatrics policy supports parental education about, access to, and insurance and Medicaid coverage for elective infant circumcision. As with vaccination, circumcision of newborn boys should be part of public health policies. Campaigns should prioritize population subgroups with lower circumcision prevalence and a higher burden of diseases that can be ameliorated by circumcision.

      Abbreviations and Acronyms:

      AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics), CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), HIV (human immunodeficiency virus), NHANES (National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys), NHDS (National Hospital Discharge Survey), STI (sexually transmitted infection), UNCRC (United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child)
      Article Highlights
      • There has been a rise in circumcisions in men to 81% during the past decade.
      • The rise has occurred in white (91%), black (76%), and Hispanic (44%) males.
      • Corrected hospital discharge data show a fall in national neonatal circumcision prevalence of 6 percentage points to 77%.
      • The fall in infant circumcisions is concomitant with demographic changes, most notably the increase in the proportion of Hispanic people (traditionally noncircumcising) in Western states but also the withdrawal of Medicaid coverage in 18 states.
      • A risk-benefit analysis shows that benefits vastly exceed risks.
      • Ethical and legal considerations support the right of male minors to protection from disease by parents consenting to their circumcision.
      • The affirmative policy of the American Academy of Pediatrics should logically result in an increase in infant circumcisions in the United States and in reintroduction of access to Medicaid funding for poor families.
      The present article examines the trend in male circumcision in the United States, contemporary issues, and what these might mean for the future of circumcision practice in this country. The publications referenced were selected for relevance from among the first author’s (B.J.M.) collection of more than 3000 on the topic of male circumcision that had been retrieved using the search term circumcision from weekly PubMed alerts between January 1999 and December 2013 and from Current Contents between January 1988 and December 1998. All the articles were filed under the subcategories of rates, policy, ethics, risks, and each of the medical conditions that male circumcision affects.

      What the Latest Rates Data Show

      The review was triggered by a recent report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on the prevalence of circumcision among males aged 14 to 59 years in the United States.
      • Introcaso C.E.
      • Xu F.
      • Kilmarx P.H.
      • et al.
      Prevalence of circumcision among men and boys aged 14 to 59 years in the United States, national health and nutrition examination surveys 2005-2010.
      The CDC data were obtained from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANESs) for 2005 to 2010, in which interviews were administered to a nationally representative sample of 6294 males. The CDC researchers estimated total circumcision prevalence to be 80.5% (Table 1). Racial differences were apparent: Prevalence was 90.8% in non-Hispanic white, 75.7% in non-Hispanic black, and 44.0% in Mexican American males. The recent figures are higher than in the CDC’s previous report based on NHANES data for 1999 to 2004
      • Xu F.
      • Markowitz L.E.
      • Sternberg M.R.
      • Aral S.O.
      Prevalence of circumcision and herpes simplex virus type 2 infection in men in the United States: the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), 1999-2004.
      (Table 1).
      Table 1Comparison of Total Circumcision Prevalence in Men and Boys Aged 14 to 59 Years in 2005 to 2010
      • Introcaso C.E.
      • Xu F.
      • Kilmarx P.H.
      • et al.
      Prevalence of circumcision among men and boys aged 14 to 59 years in the United States, national health and nutrition examination surveys 2005-2010.
      Compared With 1999 to 2004
      • Xu F.
      • Markowitz L.E.
      • Sternberg M.R.
      • Aral S.O.
      Prevalence of circumcision and herpes simplex virus type 2 infection in men in the United States: the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), 1999-2004.
      Note that data for 1999 to 2004 were published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as whole numbers,2 whereas data for 2005 to 2010 were published to 1 decimal point.1
      Race/ethnicityPrevalence (% [95% CI])Change (%)
      1999-20042005-2010
      Overall79 (77-80)80.5 (78.4-82.5)+2.5
      Non-Hispanic white88 (87-90)90.8 (89.1-92.6)+3.4
      Non-Hispanic black73 (69-77)75.7 (72.0-79.4)+4.1
      Mexican American42 (43-57)44.0 (41.0-46.9)+4.8
      a Note that data for 1999 to 2004 were published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as whole numbers,
      • Xu F.
      • Markowitz L.E.
      • Sternberg M.R.
      • Aral S.O.
      Prevalence of circumcision and herpes simplex virus type 2 infection in men in the United States: the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), 1999-2004.
      whereas data for 2005 to 2010 were published to 1 decimal point.
      • Introcaso C.E.
      • Xu F.
      • Kilmarx P.H.
      • et al.
      Prevalence of circumcision among men and boys aged 14 to 59 years in the United States, national health and nutrition examination surveys 2005-2010.
      Because these data are for males aged 14 to 59 years—and most circumcisions in the United States take place during the neonatal period—they largely reflect past practice. What happened in the 1950s through the 1990s may not be what is happening today.
      Estimates of prevalence of neonatal circumcision generally rely on hospital discharge data.

      Owings M, Uddin S, Williams S. Trends in circumcision for male newborns in U.S. hospitals: 1979-2010. National Center for Health Statistics website. http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/hestat/circumcision_2013/circumcision_2013.pdf. Accessed September 5, 2013.

      Such figures are taken from records of procedures performed during the neonatal hospital stay. However, few studies have investigated the reliability of hospital discharge data as an estimate of neonatal circumcision prevalence; those that have done so have found a substantial discrepancy. A survey in Maryland found that the prevalence was 75.3% based on hospital discharge data but 82.3% based on a postpartum survey.
      • Cheng D.
      • Hurt L.
      • Horon I.L.
      Neonatal circumcision in Maryland: a comparison of hospital discharge and maternal postpartum survey data.
      An earlier study in Atlanta found that circumcision was recorded for only 84.3% of boys who had received a circumcision.
      • O'Brien T.R.
      • Calle E.E.
      • Poole W.K.
      Incidence of neonatal circumcision in Atlanta, 1985-1986.
      In referring to their sample in July 1985, the authors stated, “If we had relied solely on [summary information in the medical record, usually found on the face sheet] we would have estimated that the circumcision rate for that period was 75.3% rather than 89.3%.”
      • O'Brien T.R.
      • Calle E.E.
      • Poole W.K.
      Incidence of neonatal circumcision in Atlanta, 1985-1986.
      ,p.414
      These previous comparisons have been of local samples only. To better ascertain recent trends nationally, we considered it instructive to critically compare the new NHANES findings with National Hospital Discharge Survey (NHDS) data for 1979 to 2010 as reported recently by the CDC.

      Owings M, Uddin S, Williams S. Trends in circumcision for male newborns in U.S. hospitals: 1979-2010. National Center for Health Statistics website. http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/hestat/circumcision_2013/circumcision_2013.pdf. Accessed September 5, 2013.

      The present evaluation, therefore, updates the comparison of NHANES and NHDS data by Waskett in 2007.
      • Waskett J.H.
      Hospital discharge data underestimate circumcision rates.
      That study was limited by having only 1980s births available for comparison. The present analysis is, therefore, more informative.
      We show in Table 2 the prevalence of circumcision in the NHANES and NHDS samples for comparable birth years. It is readily apparent that NHANES data show a substantially higher prevalence of circumcision than suggested by the NHDS figures. The recent NHDS analysis did note in the first paragraph, however, that their figures “do not include circumcisions performed outside the hospital setting [...] or those performed at any age following discharge from the birth hospitalization.”

      Owings M, Uddin S, Williams S. Trends in circumcision for male newborns in U.S. hospitals: 1979-2010. National Center for Health Statistics website. http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/hestat/circumcision_2013/circumcision_2013.pdf. Accessed September 5, 2013.

      The present article refers to nonhospital and postdischarge circumcisions as “unrecorded circumcisions.” The number of these can be estimated by comparison of NHDS data with NHANES data, where the latter records circumcisions performed at any time and any location.
      Table 2Comparison of NHANES
      • Introcaso C.E.
      • Xu F.
      • Kilmarx P.H.
      • et al.
      Prevalence of circumcision among men and boys aged 14 to 59 years in the United States, national health and nutrition examination surveys 2005-2010.
      and NHDS

      Owings M, Uddin S, Williams S. Trends in circumcision for male newborns in U.S. hospitals: 1979-2010. National Center for Health Statistics website. http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/hestat/circumcision_2013/circumcision_2013.pdf. Accessed September 5, 2013.

      Circumcision Prevalence Data for Comparable Birth Years
      Birth yearsPrevalence (%)
      NHANESNHDSUnrecorded
      1970-197982.064.549.3
      1980-198979.861.247.9
      1990-199676.260.939.1
      NHANES = National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey; NHDS = National Hospital Discharge Survey.
      Our calculation involved the following formula: a = i + u(1 – i), where a is the prevalence from NHANES data for men and boys aged 14 to 59 years (which, for convenience, is referred to as “adult circumcisions” for the purpose of this article), i is the prevalence in infancy as captured by NHDS data, and u represents unrecorded circumcisions. Thus, u can be obtained from values for a and i using simple algebra, ie, u = (a – i) / (–i + 1). An explanation of the rationale for this formula appears in the Supplemental Appendix (available online at http://www.mayoclinicproceedings.org). Values for these unrecorded circumcisions are shown in Table 2, alongside the percentage of males deemed by raw NHDS data to be uncircumcised and the percentage who were actually found to be circumcised according to the NHANESs of adults and older boys.
      The percentage of unrecorded circumcisions is similar across the 3 groups of birth years. The figure is somewhat smaller for the most recent birth years (1990-1996). This finding may be the result of a random fluctuation or a downward trend, or it may reflect the fact that this cohort includes males as young as 14 years, who have had less time in which to be circumcised, although circumcision later in childhood is much less common than during the neonatal period. Using data from the local studies in Maryland
      • Cheng D.
      • Hurt L.
      • Horon I.L.
      Neonatal circumcision in Maryland: a comparison of hospital discharge and maternal postpartum survey data.
      and Atlanta
      • O'Brien T.R.
      • Calle E.E.
      • Poole W.K.
      Incidence of neonatal circumcision in Atlanta, 1985-1986.
      discussed previously herein, we calculate that unrecorded circumcisions in these studies were 28.3% and 56.7%, respectively, ie, they were comparable with those in Table 2 for national data.
      We found the mean percentage of unrecorded circumcisions in Table 2 to be 45.4%. On the basis of this figure, we provide in Table 3 predictions for the prevalence of adult circumcision in males born between 1997 and 2010. Although we found that there has been a decline in the prevalence of circumcision from the peak of 83.3% in 1960 to 1969,
      • Introcaso C.E.
      • Xu F.
      • Kilmarx P.H.
      • et al.
      Prevalence of circumcision among men and boys aged 14 to 59 years in the United States, national health and nutrition examination surveys 2005-2010.
      the decline is comparatively small, having fallen only 6.1 percentage points from the 1960 to 1969 birth cohort to the 2010 birth cohort (ie, 83.3 – 77.2 = 6.1).
      Table 3Projected Adult Prevalence of Circumcision
      Birth yearsPrevalence (%)
      NHDSAdult
      1997-199962.579.5
      2000-200958.077.1
      201058.377.2
      NHDS = National Hospital Discharge Survey.
      Based on the information previously herein, we show in the Figure the overall prevalence of circumcision in the United States from the late 1940s to 2010.
      Figure thumbnail gr1
      FigurePrevalence of adult circumcision in the United States during the past 6 decades (1948-2010).
      • Introcaso C.E.
      • Xu F.
      • Kilmarx P.H.
      • et al.
      Prevalence of circumcision among men and boys aged 14 to 59 years in the United States, national health and nutrition examination surveys 2005-2010.
      • Xu F.
      • Markowitz L.E.
      • Sternberg M.R.
      • Aral S.O.
      Prevalence of circumcision and herpes simplex virus type 2 infection in men in the United States: the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), 1999-2004.
      • Slaby A.R.
      • Drizd T.
      Circumcision in the United States.
      • Laumann E.O.
      • Maal C.M.
      • Zuckerman E.W.
      Circumcision in the United States: prevalence, prophyactic effects, and sexual practice.
      The solid line represents documented prevalence among adults; dashed line, our predictions (see the text for how this was derived).
      Earlier NHDS data to the year 2000 found an increase in neonatal circumcision from 48.3% of newborns in 1988 to 1991 to 61.1% in 1997 to 2000 (P<.0001).
      • Nelson C.P.
      • Dunn R.
      • Wan J.
      • Wei J.T.
      The increasing incidence of newborn circumcision: data from the nationwide inpatient sample.
      These rates came from a study of 4,657,402 newborn male hospitalizations from the Nationwide Inpatient Sample that identified newborns who underwent circumcision during a 13-year period using International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision procedure codes. A 2011 CDC report based on NHDS statistics found, however, a decrease from 62.5% in 1999 to 56.9% in 2008.
      Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
      Trends in in-hospital newborn male circumcision—United States, 1999-2010.
      Thus, despite the 2013 CDC report based on NHANES data for 2005 to 2010 having shown that circumcision prevalence has risen marginally in all racial groups, the present analysis reveals a 6 percentage point fall in the overall prevalence of newborn circumcision in recent times. The main reason is most likely the much faster increase in the Hispanic population,

      Campbell PR. Population projections for states by age, sex, race, and Hispanic origin: 1995 to 2025. PPL-47. http://www.census.gov/population/projections/files/methodology/ppl47.pdf. Published 1996. Accessed December 29, 2013.

      the ethnic group having the lowest circumcision prevalence. The burgeoning Hispanic population in the West accounts for most of the decrease in national prevalence.

      Owings M, Uddin S, Williams S. Trends in circumcision for male newborns in U.S. hospitals: 1979-2010. National Center for Health Statistics website. http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/hestat/circumcision_2013/circumcision_2013.pdf. Accessed September 5, 2013.

      Because Hispanic and black individuals are overrepresented in poorer demographics, the withdrawal of Medicaid funding for elective circumcision in 18 states is of concern to public health,
      • Leibowitz A.A.
      • Desmond K.
      • Belin T.
      Determinants and policy implications of male circumcision in the United States.
      • Morris B.J.
      • Bailis S.A.
      • Waskett J.H.
      • et al.
      Medicaid coverage of newborn circumcision: a health parity right of the poor.
      as was also expressed by the authors of the CDC’s recent report.
      • Introcaso C.E.
      • Xu F.
      • Kilmarx P.H.
      • et al.
      Prevalence of circumcision among men and boys aged 14 to 59 years in the United States, national health and nutrition examination surveys 2005-2010.
      After controlling for other factors, states with Medicaid coverage had hospital circumcision rates 24 percentage points higher than states without such coverage.
      • Leibowitz A.A.
      • Desmond K.
      • Belin T.
      Determinants and policy implications of male circumcision in the United States.

      Pediatric Recommendation

      Circumcision rates may have been influenced, in part, by the periodic reports from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). These reports have changed slowly from negative in the 1970s to neutral in 1999 to positive in 2012.
      American Academy of Pediatrics Task Force on Circumcision
      Circumcision policy statement.
      It will be interesting to see what impact the recent change in recommendations by the AAP will have on national circumcision rates. The AAP report found (1) that the benefits of infant male circumcision exceed the risks; (2) that parents are entitled to factually correct, nonbiased information about benefits and risks; (3) that access to circumcision should be provided for families who choose it; (4) that effective pain management and sterile technique should be used; and (5) that third-party reimbursement is warranted. The AAP’s policy was developed by ethicists, epidemiologists, and clinical experts, assisted by the CDC, the American Academy of Family Physicians, and the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology. The AAP policy graded the quality of the research that the Task Force cited and concluded, “Evaluation of current evidence indicates that the health benefits of newborn male circumcision outweigh the risks, and the benefits of newborn male circumcision justify access to this procedure for those families who choose it.”
      American Academy of Pediatrics Task Force on Circumcision
      Circumcision policy statement.
      ,p.e756,e757,e778 It is not prescriptive. Instead, it states, “Parents should weigh the health benefits and risks in light of their own religious, cultural, and personal preferences, as the medical benefits alone may not outweigh these other considerations for individual families.” Thus, it retains the balance of rights and responsibilities between the individual child, the child's parents, and society at large. The AAP’s 2012 report might be regarded as close to a recommendation as might be possible in the present era of autonomy, where even vaccinations can be refused by parents for their children.

      Risk-Benefit

      The AAP Task Force did not conduct a risk-benefit analysis. Because it considered the literature only to 2010, it did not capture risk-benefit analyses published in 2012.
      • Morris B.J.
      • Wodak A.D.
      • Mindel A.
      • et al.
      Infant male circumcision: an evidence-based policy statement.
      • Morris B.J.
      • Waskett J.H.
      • Banerjee J.
      • et al.
      A “snip” in time: what is the best age to circumcise?.
      Table 4 provides an updated risk-benefit analysis drawing on literature cited in the latter studies and in the AAP report
      American Academy of Pediatrics Task Force on Circumcision
      Circumcision policy statement.
      and on data in more recent reviews and meta-analyses. This analysis shows that over the lifetime, benefits exceed risks by at least 100 to 1. If one considers the seriousness of some conditions that circumcision protects against, the benefit would actually be much greater. Based on risk-benefit considerations, neonatal circumcision might rationally be considered in the same light as childhood vaccination.
      Table 4Comprehensive Risk-Benefit Analysis of Infant Male Circumcision
      HIV = human immunodeficiency virus; HPV = human papillomavirus; NA = not applicable.
      ConditionFold increase in risk (95% CI)Rating of evidence
      Rating of evidence was based on the Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network grading system for evidence-based guidelines48: high-quality meta-analyses, systematic reviews of randomized controlled trials (RCTs), or RCTs with very low risk of bias (1++); well-conducted meta-analyses, systematic reviews of RCTs, or RCTs with low risk of bias (1+); meta-analyses, systematic reviews of RCTs, or RCTs with high risk of bias (1–); high-quality systematic reviews of case-control or cohort studies or high-quality case-control or cohort studies with a very low risk of confounding, bias, or chance and a high probability that the relationship is causal (2++); well-conducted case-control or cohort studies with a low risk of confounding, bias, or chance and a moderate probability that the relationship is causal (2+); and case-control or cohort studies with a high risk of confounding, bias, or chance and a significant risk that the relationship is not causal (2–); reports with lower ratings, such as case reports and case series (3) and expert opinion (4), were not considered.
      Percentage affectedReference, year
      Risks of not circumcising
      These data show that the risk to an uncircumcised male of developing a condition requiring medical attention during their lifetime is approximately 1 in 2. Values shown are mostly based on statistics for the United States unless RCT data were available from other countries. State-of-the-art reviews are shown where possible rather than individual studies. Information on sexually transmitted infections applies to those acquired in heterosexual males.
       Urinary tract infection: age 0-1 y9.9 (7.5-13)1++1.3
      The percentage of uncircumcised affected is the inverse of the number needed to treat value, which is the approximate number of males who need to be circumcised to prevent 1 case of each condition associated with lack of circumcision.
      Morris and Wiswell,
      • Morris B.J.
      • Wiswell T.E.
      Circumcision and lifetime risk of urinary tract infections: a systematic review and meta-analysis.
      2013
       Urinary tract infection: age l-16 y6.6 (3.3-13)1++2.7
      The percentage of uncircumcised affected is the inverse of the number needed to treat value, which is the approximate number of males who need to be circumcised to prevent 1 case of each condition associated with lack of circumcision.
      Morris and Wiswell,
      • Morris B.J.
      • Wiswell T.E.
      Circumcision and lifetime risk of urinary tract infections: a systematic review and meta-analysis.
      2013
       Urinary tract infection: age >16 y3.4 (0.92-50)1+28
      The percentage of uncircumcised affected is the inverse of the number needed to treat value, which is the approximate number of males who need to be circumcised to prevent 1 case of each condition associated with lack of circumcision.
      Morris and Wiswell,
      • Morris B.J.
      • Wiswell T.E.
      Circumcision and lifetime risk of urinary tract infections: a systematic review and meta-analysis.
      2013
       Urinary tract infection: lifetime3.6 (1.8-5.7)1+32
      The percentage of uncircumcised affected is the inverse of the number needed to treat value, which is the approximate number of males who need to be circumcised to prevent 1 case of each condition associated with lack of circumcision.
      Morris and Wiswell,
      • Morris B.J.
      • Wiswell T.E.
      Circumcision and lifetime risk of urinary tract infections: a systematic review and meta-analysis.
      2013
       Pyelonephritis (infants)102+0.6
      The percentage of uncircumcised affected is the inverse of the number needed to treat value, which is the approximate number of males who need to be circumcised to prevent 1 case of each condition associated with lack of circumcision.
      Zorc et al,
      • Zorc J.J.
      • Kiddoo D.A.
      • Shaw K.N.
      Diagnosis and management of pediatric urinary tract infections.
      2005; Rushton and Majd,
      • Rushton H.G.
      • Majd M.
      Dimercaptosuccinic acid renal scintigraphy for the evaluation of pyelonephritis and scarring: a review of experimental and clinical studies.
      1992; Rushton,
      • Rushton H.G.
      Urinary tract infections in children: epidemiology, evaluation, and management.
      1997; Elder,
      • Elder J.S.
      Urinary tract infections.
      2007
      With concurrent bacteremia202+0.1
      The percentage of uncircumcised affected is the inverse of the number needed to treat value, which is the approximate number of males who need to be circumcised to prevent 1 case of each condition associated with lack of circumcision.
      Zorc et al,
      • Zorc J.J.
      • Kiddoo D.A.
      • Shaw K.N.
      Diagnosis and management of pediatric urinary tract infections.
      2005; Rushton and Majd,
      • Rushton H.G.
      • Majd M.
      Dimercaptosuccinic acid renal scintigraphy for the evaluation of pyelonephritis and scarring: a review of experimental and clinical studies.
      1992; Rushton,
      • Rushton H.G.
      Urinary tract infections in children: epidemiology, evaluation, and management.
      1997; Elder,
      • Elder J.S.
      Urinary tract infections.
      2007
      Hypertension in early adulthood2–0.1
      The percentage of uncircumcised affected is the inverse of the number needed to treat value, which is the approximate number of males who need to be circumcised to prevent 1 case of each condition associated with lack of circumcision.
      Jacobson et al,
      • Jacobson S.H.
      • Eklof O.
      • Eriksson C.G.
      • et al.
      Development of hypertension and uraemia after pyelonephritis in childhood: 27 year follow up.
      1989
      End-stage renal disease in early adult2–0.06
      The percentage of uncircumcised affected is the inverse of the number needed to treat value, which is the approximate number of males who need to be circumcised to prevent 1 case of each condition associated with lack of circumcision.
      Jacobson et al,
      • Jacobson S.H.
      • Eklof O.
      • Eriksson C.G.
      • et al.
      Development of hypertension and uraemia after pyelonephritis in childhood: 27 year follow up.
      1989
       Candidiasis2.5 (1.7-3.7)2+10
      The percentage of uncircumcised affected is the inverse of the number needed to treat value, which is the approximate number of males who need to be circumcised to prevent 1 case of each condition associated with lack of circumcision.
      Richters et al,
      • Richters J.
      • Smith A.M.
      • de Visser R.O.
      • et al.
      Circumcision in Australia: prevalence and effects on sexual health.
      2006
       Prostate cancer1.2-22+2-10
      The percentage of uncircumcised affected is the inverse of the number needed to treat value, which is the approximate number of males who need to be circumcised to prevent 1 case of each condition associated with lack of circumcision.
      Wright et al,
      • Wright J.L.
      • Lin D.W.
      • Stanford J.L.
      Circumcision and the risk of prostate cancer.
      2012; Morris et al,
      • Morris B.J.
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      • Bailis S.A.
      Case number and the financial impact of circumcision in reducing prostate cancer.
      2007; Morris et al,
      • Morris B.J.
      • Gray R.H.
      • Castellsague X.
      • et al.
      The strong protection afforded by circumcision against cancer of the penis.
      2011; Morris and Waskett,
      • Morris B.J.
      • Waskett J.H.
      Circumcision reduces prostate cancer risk.
      2012
       Balanitis3.1 (1.9-5.0)1+10
      The percentage of uncircumcised affected is the inverse of the number needed to treat value, which is the approximate number of males who need to be circumcised to prevent 1 case of each condition associated with lack of circumcision.
      Morris et al,
      • Morris B.J.
      • Waskett J.H.
      • Banerjee J.
      • et al.
      A “snip” in time: what is the best age to circumcise?.
      2012
       Phimosis1001++10
      The percentage of uncircumcised affected is the inverse of the number needed to treat value, which is the approximate number of males who need to be circumcised to prevent 1 case of each condition associated with lack of circumcision.
      Morris,
      • Morris B.J.
      Why circumcision is a biomedical imperative for the 21st century.
      2007
       High-risk HPV infection1.5 (1.1-2.0)1++6
      The percentage of uncircumcised affected is the inverse of the number needed to treat value, which is the approximate number of males who need to be circumcised to prevent 1 case of each condition associated with lack of circumcision.
      Tobian et al,
      • Tobian A.A.R.
      • Serwadda D.
      • Quinn T.C.
      • et al.
      Male circumcision for the prevention of HSV-2 and HPV infections and syphilis.
      2009; Auvert et al,
      • Auvert B.
      • Sobngwi-Tambekou J.
      • Cutler E.
      • et al.
      Effect of male circumcision on the prevalence of high-risk human papillomavirus in young men: results of a randomized controlled trial conducted in Orange Farm, South Africa.
      2009
      2.7 (1.2-6.3)1+10
      The percentage of uncircumcised affected is the inverse of the number needed to treat value, which is the approximate number of males who need to be circumcised to prevent 1 case of each condition associated with lack of circumcision.
      Morris et al,
      • Morris B.J.
      • Gray R.H.
      • Castellsague X.
      • et al.
      The strong protection afforded by circumcision against cancer of the penis.
      2012; Castellsagué et al,
      • Castellsagué X.
      • Bosch F.X.
      • Munoz N.
      • et al.
      Male circumcision, penile human papillomavirus infection, and cervical cancer in female partners.
      2002; Miralles-Guri et al,
      • Miralles-Guri C.
      • Bruni L.
      • Cubilla A.L.
      • et al.
      Human papillomavirus prevalence and type distribution in penile carcinoma.
      2009; Albero et al,
      • Albero G.
      • Castellsagué X.
      • Giuliano A.R.
      • Bosch F.X.
      Male circumcision and genital human papillomavirus: a systematic review and meta-analysis.
      2012
       Herpes simplex virus type 21.4 (1.0-2.5)1++4
      The percentage of uncircumcised affected is the inverse of the number needed to treat value, which is the approximate number of males who need to be circumcised to prevent 1 case of each condition associated with lack of circumcision.
      Tobian et al,
      • Tobian A.A.R.
      • Serwadda D.
      • Quinn T.C.
      • et al.
      Male circumcision for the prevention of HSV-2 and HPV infections and syphilis.
      2009; Sobngwi-Tambekou et al,
      • Sobngwi-Tambekou J.
      • Taljaard D.
      • Lissouba P.
      • et al.
      Effect of HSV-2 serostatus on acquisition of HIV by young men: results of a longitudinal study in Orange Farm, South Africa.
      2009; Tobian et al,
      • Tobian A.A.R.
      • Charvat B.
      • Ssempijja V.
      • et al.
      Factors associated with the prevalence and incidence of herpes simplex virus type 2 infection among men in Rakai, Uganda.
      2009
      1.1 (1.0-1.3)1–1
      The percentage of uncircumcised affected is the inverse of the number needed to treat value, which is the approximate number of males who need to be circumcised to prevent 1 case of each condition associated with lack of circumcision.
      Weiss et al,
      • Weiss H.A.
      • Thomas S.L.
      • Munabi S.K.
      • Hayes R.J.
      Male circumcision and risk of syphilis, chancroid, and genital herpes: a systematic review and meta-analysis.
      2006
       Genital ulcer disease2.0 (1.4-2.3)1+2
      The percentage of uncircumcised affected is the inverse of the number needed to treat value, which is the approximate number of males who need to be circumcised to prevent 1 case of each condition associated with lack of circumcision.
      Gray et al,
      • Gray R.H.
      • Serwadda D.
      • Tobian A.A.R.
      • et al.
      Effects of genital ulcer disease and herpes simplex virus type 2 on the efficacy of male circumcision for HIV prevention: analyses from the Rakai trials.
      2009
      Trichomonas vaginalis1.9 (1.0-3.6)1+0.5
      The percentage of uncircumcised affected is the inverse of the number needed to treat value, which is the approximate number of males who need to be circumcised to prevent 1 case of each condition associated with lack of circumcision.
      Sobngwi-Tambekou et al,
      • Sobngwi-Tambekou J.
      • Taljaard D.
      • Nieuwoudt M.
      • et al.
      Male circumcision and Neisseria gonorrhoeae, Chlamydia trachomatis, and Trichomonas vaginalis: observations in the aftermath of a randomised controlled trial for HIV prevention.
      2009
      Mycoplasma genitalium1.8 (1.0-3.4)1++1
      The percentage of uncircumcised affected is the inverse of the number needed to treat value, which is the approximate number of males who need to be circumcised to prevent 1 case of each condition associated with lack of circumcision.
      Mehta et al,
      • Mehta S.D.
      • Gaydos C.
      • Maclean I.
      • et al.
      The effect of medical male circumcision on urogenital Mycoplasma genitalium among men in Kisumu, Kenya.
      2012
       Chancroid0.1-1.11++Low
      The percentage of uncircumcised affected is the inverse of the number needed to treat value, which is the approximate number of males who need to be circumcised to prevent 1 case of each condition associated with lack of circumcision.
      Weiss et al,
      • Weiss H.A.
      • Thomas S.L.
      • Munabi S.K.
      • Hayes R.J.
      Male circumcision and risk of syphilis, chancroid, and genital herpes: a systematic review and meta-analysis.
      2006
       Syphilis1.9 (1.2-2.9)2+Low
      The percentage of uncircumcised affected is the inverse of the number needed to treat value, which is the approximate number of males who need to be circumcised to prevent 1 case of each condition associated with lack of circumcision.
      Weiss et al,
      • Weiss H.A.
      • Thomas S.L.
      • Munabi S.K.
      • Hayes R.J.
      Male circumcision and risk of syphilis, chancroid, and genital herpes: a systematic review and meta-analysis.
      2006
       HIV (acquired heterosexually)2.4 (1.8-3.2)1++0.3
      The percentage of uncircumcised affected is the inverse of the number needed to treat value, which is the approximate number of males who need to be circumcised to prevent 1 case of each condition associated with lack of circumcision.
      Siegfried et al,
      • Siegfried N.
      • Muller M.
      • Deeks J.J.
      • Volmink J.
      Male circumcision for prevention of heterosexual acquisition of HIV in men.
      2009; Weiss et al,
      • Weiss H.A.
      • Halperin D.
      • Bailey R.C.
      • et al.
      Male circumcision for HIV prevention: from evidence to action [review]?.
      2008; Sansom et al,
      • Sansom S.L.
      • Prabhu V.S.
      • Hutchinson A.B.
      • et al.
      Cost-effectiveness of newborn circumcision in reducing lifetime HIV risk among U.S. males.
      2010; Morris et al,
      • Morris B.J.
      • Bailey R.C.
      • Klausner J.D.
      • et al.
      Review: a critical evaluation of arguments opposing male circumcision for HIV prevention in developed countries.
      2012
       Penile cancer (lifetime)>201++0.1
      The percentage of uncircumcised affected is the inverse of the number needed to treat value, which is the approximate number of males who need to be circumcised to prevent 1 case of each condition associated with lack of circumcision.
      American Academy of Pediatrics,
      American Academy of Pediatrics Task Force on Circumcision
      Circumcision policy statement.
      2012; Morris et al,
      • Morris B.J.
      • Gray R.H.
      • Castellsague X.
      • et al.
      The strong protection afforded by circumcision against cancer of the penis.
      2011
       In female partner
      Cervical cancer2.4 (1.3-4.3)2++NACastellsagué et al,
      • Castellsagué X.
      • Bosch F.X.
      • Munoz N.
      • et al.
      Male circumcision, penile human papillomavirus infection, and cervical cancer in female partners.
      2002; Bosch et al,
      • Bosch F.X.
      • Albero G.
      • Castellsagué X.
      Male circumcision, human papillomavirus and cervical cancer: from evidence to intervention.
      2009
      Chlamydia trachomatis5.6 (1.7-20)2+NACastellsagué et al,
      • Castellsagué X.
      • Peeling R.W.
      • Franceschi S.
      • et al.
      Chlamydia trachomatis infection in female partners of circumcised and uncircumcised adult men.
      2005
      Herpes simplex virus type 22.2 (1.4-3.6)2+NACherpes et al,
      • Cherpes T.L.
      • Meyne L.A.
      • Krohn M.A.
      • Hiller S.L.
      Risk factors for infection with herpes simplex virus type 2: role of smoking, douching, uncircumcised males, and vaginal flora.
      2003
      Trichomonas vaginalis1.9 (1.0-10)1++NAGray et al,
      • Gray R.H.
      • Kigozi G.
      • Serwadda D.
      • et al.
      The effects of male circumcision on female partners' genital tract symptoms and vaginal infections in a randomized trial in Rakai, Uganda.
      2009
      Bacterial vaginosis1.7 (1.1-2.6)1++NAGray et al,
      • Gray R.H.
      • Kigozi G.
      • Serwadda D.
      • et al.
      The effects of male circumcision on female partners' genital tract symptoms and vaginal infections in a randomized trial in Rakai, Uganda.
      2009
      Risks associated with neonatal circumcision
      These data show that risk of an easily treatable condition is approximately 1 in 200 and of a serious complication is 1 in 5000. Estimates are taken from American Academy of Pediatrics,14 2012; Wiswell and Geschke,49 1989; and Ben Chaim et al,50 2005.
       Local bruising at the site of injection of local anesthetic (if dorsal penile nerve block used)NANA25
      Percentage affected is the inverse of the number needed to harm value, which is the approximate number of males who need to be circumcised to see one of each particular (mostly minor) adverse effect. The item “local bruising” is not included in the overall calculation of easily treatable risks because this phenomenon disappears naturally without any medical intervention.
      NA
       Infection, localNANA0.2
      Percentage affected is the inverse of the number needed to harm value, which is the approximate number of males who need to be circumcised to see one of each particular (mostly minor) adverse effect. The item “local bruising” is not included in the overall calculation of easily treatable risks because this phenomenon disappears naturally without any medical intervention.
      NA
       Infection, systemicNANA0.02
      Percentage affected is the inverse of the number needed to harm value, which is the approximate number of males who need to be circumcised to see one of each particular (mostly minor) adverse effect. The item “local bruising” is not included in the overall calculation of easily treatable risks because this phenomenon disappears naturally without any medical intervention.
      NA
       Excessive bleedingNANA0.1
      Percentage affected is the inverse of the number needed to harm value, which is the approximate number of males who need to be circumcised to see one of each particular (mostly minor) adverse effect. The item “local bruising” is not included in the overall calculation of easily treatable risks because this phenomenon disappears naturally without any medical intervention.
      NA
       Need for repeat surgery (if skin bridges or too little prepuce is removed)NANA0.1
      Percentage affected is the inverse of the number needed to harm value, which is the approximate number of males who need to be circumcised to see one of each particular (mostly minor) adverse effect. The item “local bruising” is not included in the overall calculation of easily treatable risks because this phenomenon disappears naturally without any medical intervention.
      NA
       Loss of penisNANA0.0001
      Percentage affected is the inverse of the number needed to harm value, which is the approximate number of males who need to be circumcised to see one of each particular (mostly minor) adverse effect. The item “local bruising” is not included in the overall calculation of easily treatable risks because this phenomenon disappears naturally without any medical intervention.
      NA
       DeathNANA0.00001
      Percentage affected is the inverse of the number needed to harm value, which is the approximate number of males who need to be circumcised to see one of each particular (mostly minor) adverse effect. The item “local bruising” is not included in the overall calculation of easily treatable risks because this phenomenon disappears naturally without any medical intervention.
      NA
       Loss of penile sensitivityNANA0
      Percentage affected is the inverse of the number needed to harm value, which is the approximate number of males who need to be circumcised to see one of each particular (mostly minor) adverse effect. The item “local bruising” is not included in the overall calculation of easily treatable risks because this phenomenon disappears naturally without any medical intervention.
      NA
      a HIV = human immunodeficiency virus; HPV = human papillomavirus; NA = not applicable.
      b Rating of evidence was based on the Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network grading system for evidence-based guidelines
      • Harbour R.
      • Miller J.
      A new system for grading recommendations in evidence based guidelines.
      : high-quality meta-analyses, systematic reviews of randomized controlled trials (RCTs), or RCTs with very low risk of bias (1++); well-conducted meta-analyses, systematic reviews of RCTs, or RCTs with low risk of bias (1+); meta-analyses, systematic reviews of RCTs, or RCTs with high risk of bias (1–); high-quality systematic reviews of case-control or cohort studies or high-quality case-control or cohort studies with a very low risk of confounding, bias, or chance and a high probability that the relationship is causal (2++); well-conducted case-control or cohort studies with a low risk of confounding, bias, or chance and a moderate probability that the relationship is causal (2+); and case-control or cohort studies with a high risk of confounding, bias, or chance and a significant risk that the relationship is not causal (2–); reports with lower ratings, such as case reports and case series (3) and expert opinion (4), were not considered.
      c These data show that the risk to an uncircumcised male of developing a condition requiring medical attention during their lifetime is approximately 1 in 2. Values shown are mostly based on statistics for the United States unless RCT data were available from other countries. State-of-the-art reviews are shown where possible rather than individual studies. Information on sexually transmitted infections applies to those acquired in heterosexual males.
      d The percentage of uncircumcised affected is the inverse of the number needed to treat value, which is the approximate number of males who need to be circumcised to prevent 1 case of each condition associated with lack of circumcision.
      e These data show that risk of an easily treatable condition is approximately 1 in 200 and of a serious complication is 1 in 5000. Estimates are taken from American Academy of Pediatrics,
      American Academy of Pediatrics Task Force on Circumcision
      Circumcision policy statement.
      2012; Wiswell and Geschke,
      • Wiswell T.E.
      • Geschke D.W.
      Risks from circumcision during the first month of life compared with those for uncircumcised boys.
      1989; and Ben Chaim et al,
      • Ben Chaim J.
      • Livne P.M.
      • Binyamini J.
      • et al.
      Complications of circumcision in Israel: a one year multicenter survey.
       2005.
      f Percentage affected is the inverse of the number needed to harm value, which is the approximate number of males who need to be circumcised to see one of each particular (mostly minor) adverse effect. The item “local bruising” is not included in the overall calculation of easily treatable risks because this phenomenon disappears naturally without any medical intervention.

      Access and Funding

      In most states, Medicaid covers infant male circumcision for the poor. The CDC report criticized the lack of Medicaid coverage for elective circumcision in 18 states.
      • Introcaso C.E.
      • Xu F.
      • Kilmarx P.H.
      • et al.
      Prevalence of circumcision among men and boys aged 14 to 59 years in the United States, national health and nutrition examination surveys 2005-2010.
      The CDC authors estimated that there were 3.5 million uncircumcised men and boys potentially at risk for heterosexually acquired human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), 48.3% of whom lacked health insurance. It is the poor within minorities, principally black and Hispanic, who present the highest disease burden from lack of circumcision. With this and private health insurance coverage in mind, the AAP guidelines state that the preventive and public health benefits associated with newborn male circumcision warrant third-party reimbursement of the procedure.
      American Academy of Pediatrics Task Force on Circumcision
      Circumcision policy statement.
      Their statement reinforces calls for a reevaluation by these 18 states of parental access to and funding for elective circumcision, which has been regarded as a “health parity right of the poor.”
      • Leibowitz A.A.
      • Desmond K.
      • Belin T.
      Determinants and policy implications of male circumcision in the United States.
      • Morris B.J.
      • Bailis S.A.
      • Waskett J.H.
      • et al.
      Medicaid coverage of newborn circumcision: a health parity right of the poor.
      • Tobian A.A.
      • Gray R.H.
      The medical benefits of male circumcision.

      Cost-benefit

      A cost-effectiveness study that considered only infant urinary tract infections and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) found that if male circumcision rates were to decrease to the levels of 10% typically seen in Europe, the additional direct medical costs in infancy and later for treatment of these among 10 annual birth cohorts would exceed $4.4 billion, even after accounting for the cost of the procedure (average, $291; range, $146-$437) and treatment of complications (average cost, $185 each [range, $130-$235]; prevalence, 0.4% [range, 0.2%-0.6%]).
      • Kacker S.
      • Frick K.D.
      • Gaydos C.A.
      • Tobian A.A.
      Costs and effectiveness of neonatal male circumcision.
      Each forgone infant circumcision procedure was estimated to lead to an average of $407 in increased direct medical expenses per male and $43 per female.
      • Kacker S.
      • Frick K.D.
      • Gaydos C.A.
      • Tobian A.A.
      Costs and effectiveness of neonatal male circumcision.
      This analysis did not consider other conditions, and neither did it consider the indirect costs. It seems logical then that this analysis might have greatly underestimated the true cost. The study adds to one by the CDC that found that neonatal male circumcision was cost-saving for HIV prevention, at least in black and Hispanic males, in whom HIV prevalence is highest.
      • Sansom S.L.
      • Prabhu V.S.
      • Hutchinson A.B.
      • et al.
      Cost-effectiveness of newborn circumcision in reducing lifetime HIV risk among U.S. males.
      An Australian analysis of genital cancer prevention found that neonatal circumcision provides at least partial cost savings for these.
      • Morris B.J.
      • Mindel A.
      • Tobian A.A.R.
      • et al.
      Should male circumcision be advocated for genital cancer prevention?.
      A study of a Medicaid birth cohort of 29,316 found that for every year of decreased circumcision due to Medicaid defunding there would be more than 100 additional HIV cases and $30 million in net medical costs as a result of these.
      • Andrews A.L.
      • Lazenby G.B.
      • Unal E.R.
      • Simpson K.N.
      The cost of medicaid savings: the potential detrimental public health impact of neonatal circumcision defunding.
      The cost to circumcise males in this birth cohort was $4,856,000. Modeling has found that cost savings initially generated by noncoverage of elective circumcisions by Medicaid in Louisiana
      • Ortenberg J.
      • Roth C.C.
      Projected financial impact of noncoverage of elective circumcision by Louisiana Medicaid in boys 0-5 years old.
      and Florida
      • Gutwein L.G.
      • Alvarez J.F.
      • Gutwein J.L.
      • et al.
      Allocation of healthcare dollars: analysis of nonneonatal circumcisions in Florida.
      was mitigated by increases in the rate and expense of medically indicated circumcisions. The Louisiana study considered only the costs of these for boys aged 0 to 5 years. Lifetime costs would represent a much greater financial impact on health care systems. The Florida study involved males aged 1 to 17 years undergoing circumcision between 2003 and 2008 and found that Medicaid defunding was followed by a 6-fold rise in publicly funded circumcisions (cost = $111.8 million).
      • Gutwein L.G.
      • Alvarez J.F.
      • Gutwein J.L.
      • et al.
      Allocation of healthcare dollars: analysis of nonneonatal circumcisions in Florida.

      Ethical and Legal Issues

      Parents can legally authorize surgical procedures in the best interests of their children.
      American Academy of Pediatrics Task Force on Circumcision
      Circumcision policy statement.
      • Viens A.M.
      Value judgement, harm, and religious liberty.
      • Etchells E.
      • Sharpe G.
      • Walsh P.
      Consent for circumcision.
      • Morris B.J.
      • Tobian A.A.
      Legal threat to infant male circumcision.
      • Bates M.J.
      • Ziegler J.B.
      • Kennedy S.E.
      • et al.
      Recommendation by a law body to ban infant male circumcision has serious worldwide implications for pediatric practice and human rights.
      The AAP’s ethics committee and others support this contention,
      American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Bioethics
      Informed consent, parental permission, and assent in pediatric practice.
      • Diekema D.S.
      Parental refusals of medical treatment: the harm principle as threshold for state intervention.
      as does Article 14(2) of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) 44/25 of November 20, 1989.

      United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child 44/25. http://www.un.org/documents/ga/res/44/a44r025.htm. Published November 20, 1989. Accessed November 19, 2013.

      Exceptions include failing to act in the interests of children and situations in which a medical procedure or withholding a medical procedure might cause serious harm. Because infant male circumcision is not prejudicial to the health of children but instead is beneficial, it also does not violate Article 24(3) of the UNCRC. This document does not refer to childhood male circumcision. If it did, then it is unlikely that the UNCRC would have as signatories almost all the Islamic states and Israel.
      • Jacobs A.J.
      The ethics of circumcision of male infants.
      Article 24(1) of the UNCRC calls on parties to agree to “recognize the right of the child to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health and to facilities for the treatment of illness and rehabilitation of health. States Parties shall strive to ensure that no child is deprived of his or her right of access to such health care services.”

      United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child 44/25. http://www.un.org/documents/ga/res/44/a44r025.htm. Published November 20, 1989. Accessed November 19, 2013.

      Although some argue that a child has a right to “bodily integrity” and, thus, that circumcision of boys should be banned, discouraged, or at least delayed until he can decide for himself,
      • Merkel R.
      • Putzke H.
      After Cologne: male circumcision and the law: parental right, religious liberty or criminal assault?.
      • Svoboda J.S.
      Circumcision of male infants as a human rights violation.
      • Van Howe R.S.
      Infant circumcision: the last stand for the dead dogma of parental (sovereignal) rights.
      others disagree
      • Jacobs A.J.
      The ethics of circumcision of male infants.
      • Benatar D.
      • Benatar M.
      How not to argue about circumcision.
      • Clark P.A.
      • Eisenman J.
      • Szapor S.
      Mandatory neonatal male circumcision in Sub-Saharan Africa: medical and ethical analysis.
      • Benatar D.
      Evaluations of circumcision should be circumscribed by the evidence.
      • Mazor J.
      The child's interests and the case for the permissibility of male infant circumcision.
      based on several reasons, some of which are discussed later herein. One author argues that being circumcised boosts autonomy more than constraining it.
      • Brusa M.
      • Barilan Y.M.
      Cultural circumcision in EU public hospitals: an ethical discussion.
      Article 24(3) of the UNCRC seeks to abolish traditional practices prejudicial to the health of children.

      United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child 44/25. http://www.un.org/documents/ga/res/44/a44r025.htm. Published November 20, 1989. Accessed November 19, 2013.

      Because infant male circumcision is not prejudicial to the health of children but rather is beneficial, it does not violate Article 24(3).
      • Jacobs A.J.
      The ethics of circumcision of male infants.
      In fact, one commentator construed Article 24(3) as requiring circumcision.
      • Jacobs A.J.
      The ethics of circumcision of male infants.
      He pointed out that the tradition in countries that abstain from circumcision can, in fact, be judged as being prejudicial to the health of children.
      • Jacobs A.J.
      The ethics of circumcision of male infants.
      He used as an example the increased risk in sexually active minors of acquisition and transmission of potentially fatal oncogenic human papillomavirus genotypes and HIV.
      Most parents care deeply for their children and try to do what is best for them. The AAP recommended development of unbiased educational material and that physicians routinely discuss the circumcision decision with parents early in a pregnancy. Fully informed parents might likely choose to have their baby boy circumcised.
      • Adler R.
      • Ottaway S.
      • Gould S.
      Circumcision: we have heard from the experts; now let's hear from the parents.
      It has been argued that parents who are opposed—even after being fully informed—would seem to place greater value on preserving the foreskin than in protecting their child against the harms, to the boy and his future sexual partners, of the uncircumcised state.
      • Jacobs A.J.
      The ethics of circumcision of male infants.
      Nevertheless, some parents may refrain out of respect for cultural traditions or perhaps religion; others out of a philosophical position of opposing anything other than the natural state or the acceptance of the alternative views of opponents. Regardless, the decision of parents who refuse should be respected and accepted.
      Arguments by opponents start with the premise that circumcision of males has no benefits, only harms, or that the benefits only apply later in life when the male can make the circumcision decision for himself.
      • Svoboda J.S.
      Circumcision of male infants as a human rights violation.
      • Darby R.J.L.
      The child's right to an open future: is the principle applicable to non-therapeutic circumcision?.
      Table 4 shows that benefits apply in the early pediatric period and extend all the way through life to the geriatric period. Problems in uncircumcised elderly men, especially in nursing homes, are underrecognized and need more attention and research. Another claim is that circumcision diminishes sexual function, sensitivity, and pleasure.
      • Van Howe R.S.
      Infant circumcision: the last stand for the dead dogma of parental (sovereignal) rights.
      • Darby R.J.L.
      The child's right to an open future: is the principle applicable to non-therapeutic circumcision?.
      • Lang D.P.
      Circumcision, sexual dysfunction and the child's best interests: why the anatomical details matter.
      A recent exhaustive systematic literature review
      • Morris B.J.
      • Krieger J.N.
      Does male circumcision affect sexual function, sensitivity or satisfaction?–a systematic review.
      and a meta-analysis
      • Tian Y.
      • Liu W.
      • Wang J.Z.
      • et al.
      Effects of circumcision on male sexual functions: a systematic review and meta-analysis.
      found either no adverse effect or an improvement in these parameters as a result of circumcision.
      Parents and physicians each have an ethical duty to the child to attempt to secure the child’s best interest and well-being.
      • Fleischman A.R.
      • Nolan K.
      • Dubler N.N.
      • et al.
      Caring for gravely ill children.
      Because the benefits outweigh the risks and the procedure is safe (Table 4), circumcision might be seen in the same light as other interventions that parents must choose for their child. It is the duty of states to create conditions necessary for the fulfillment of rights to good health by facilitating the availability of interventions that are beneficial. Logically it can be argued that should include male circumcision.
      • Stemple L.
      Health and human rights in today's fight against HIV/AIDS.
      Ethically, infant male circumcision seems to fall within the prerogative of parental decision making.
      • Mazor J.
      The child's interests and the case for the permissibility of male infant circumcision.
      A landmark review a decade ago noted that most decisions made by parents for their children will likely have a more profound effect on them than the presence or absence of a foreskin.
      • Alanis M.C.
      • Lucidi R.S.
      Neonatal circumcision: a review of the world's oldest and most controversial operation.
      The timing of circumcision is crucial. Medical and practical considerations strongly favor the neonatal period (Table 4).
      • Morris B.J.
      • Waskett J.H.
      • Banerjee J.
      • et al.
      A “snip” in time: what is the best age to circumcise?.
      Surgical risk is, thereby, minimized and the accumulated health benefits are maximized.
      American Academy of Pediatrics Task Force on Circumcision
      Circumcision policy statement.
      • Morris B.J.
      • Waskett J.H.
      • Banerjee J.
      • et al.
      A “snip” in time: what is the best age to circumcise?.
      If circumcision is not performed, one of the benefits potentially lost is protection against urinary tract infections that in infancy may lead to kidney damage (see the recent review by Morris and Wiswell
      • Morris B.J.
      • Wiswell T.E.
      Circumcision and lifetime risk of urinary tract infections: a systematic review and meta-analysis.
      ). Those who argue that circumcision can be delayed so that the boy can make up his own mind when older might not have considered that the operation on mature genitalia is not as simple as the surgery on a baby boy’s penis. Delay may result in increased cost, a higher risk of complications, anesthesia risk if a general anesthetic is used (as is more likely), a longer healing time, a poorer cosmetic outcome should sutures be used, a requirement for temporary sexual abstinence, interference with education or employment, and loss of opportunity for, or delay in, the achievement of protection from STIs for those who become sexually active early and for those who ignore advice on abstinence, thereby exposing them to increased risk of STIs during the 6-week healing period.
      American Academy of Pediatrics Task Force on Circumcision
      Circumcision policy statement.
      • Morris B.J.
      • Waskett J.H.
      • Banerjee J.
      • et al.
      A “snip” in time: what is the best age to circumcise?.
      Thus, it is disingenuous to suggest that the procedure is comparable at both ages.
      • Jacobs A.J.
      The ethics of circumcision of male infants.
      Furthermore, an adult cannot consent to his own infant circumcision.
      • Jacobs A.J.
      The ethics of circumcision of male infants.
      Many nations that condemn childhood male circumcision are not as quick to condemn other comparably invasive and dangerous procedures that have no medical benefit,
      • Jacobs A.J.
      The ethics of circumcision of male infants.
      eg, cosmetic orthodontia, correction of harelip, surgery for tongue-tie, growth hormone injections for treatment of dwarfism, and removal of supernumerary digits.
      • Jacobs A.J.
      The ethics of circumcision of male infants.
      Thus, as stated by Jacobs,
      • Jacobs A.J.
      The ethics of circumcision of male infants.
      it seems odd that neonatal male circumcision is regarded by some as controversial.
      As far as the law is concerned, there is a view that the legal system has no place interfering in medical practice when it is based on evidence except to ensure that professionals always act responsibly.

      Conclusion

      The latest data on male circumcision in the United States show a 2.5% overall increase in prevalence in males aged 14 to 59 years between 2000 and 2010. In contrast, there has been a downward trend in neonatal circumcisions, with the present analyses finding that the true extent of this decline is 6 percentage points. Given (1) the wide-ranging protection that neonatal circumcision affords against a diversity of medical conditions, some of which can be fatal; (2) the high benefit to risk ratio; (3) the data on cost-effectiveness; and (4) the affirmative AAP policy in 2012, in our view, it might be an appropriate time for governments, insurers, and the medical profession to act. When considered together with ethical and human rights arguments, neonatal circumcision should logically be strongly supported and encouraged as an important evidence-based intervention akin to childhood vaccination. We predict that states that currently no longer cover elective circumcision under Medicaid will restore provision of this procedure for those unable to afford it, especially because it will lead to considerable short- and long-term savings to government health budgets by reducing more expensive circumcisions for medical need later, where these often involve costly general anesthesia; it will also reduce the cost of treatment of the many foreskin-mediated conditions, infections, and cancers in males and their sexual partners that male circumcision affords varying degrees of protection against. We predict that future CDC surveys will find significant ongoing increases in the prevalence of circumcision in the United States.

      Supplemental Online Material

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      Linked Article

      • Bias and Male Circumcision
        Mayo Clinic ProceedingsVol. 89Issue 11
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          As a physician without a strong opinion about male circumcision (MC), I found the article by Morris et al1 in the May 2014 issue of Mayo Clinic Proceedings initially convincing, but on closer inspection, it is marred by bias. The authors make no mention of position statements against MC2,3 or strong international critique of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) position,4 and they omit the AAP’s own conclusion that “health benefits are not great enough to recommend routine circumcision for all male newborns.”5 Ignoring this equipoise, they claim that MC benefits “vastly exceed” risks and suggest that parents who do not authorize MC are unethical and violate the rights of children.
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