CDC: Circumcision Benefits Outweigh the Risks

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released the draft of  long-anticipated federal guidelines on circumcision on Tuesday, saying that medical evidence supports having the procedure done and that health insurers should pay for it. Speaking with, Jonathan Mermin, MD, of the CDC said that the new guidelines stop short of telling parents to get newborn sons circumcised because it is a personal decision that sometimes involves religious or cultural preferences.

This is the first time that the CDC has issued guidelines on circumcision, a procedure that cuts away the foreskin around the tip of the penis. The CDC says that circumcision can lower the male risk of sexually-transmitted diseases, penile cancer, and urinary tract infections.

Research toward these guidelines began over seven years ago with studies in Africa that indicated circumcision might help prevent the spread of the AIDS virus. The CDC believes this is important information for parents of new sons to consider, since the rates of newborn male circumcision have been dropping. It is estimated that only 25 percent of U.S. male newborns were circumcised in 1900, but gradually the procedure became the cultural norm and by 1960 the rate was over 80 percent. By 2010 the newborn circumcision rate had dropped to 58 percent as a wave of Medicaid programs stopped paying for circumcisions. The procedure costs about $150 to $200.

In their guidelines, the CDC says that circumcision is safer for newborns and infants than for older males, and recommends that doctors explain the risks and benefits to new parents. And the CDC also believes that information on circumcision should be given to sexually active uncircumcised men who are at high risk for catching the AIDS virus. Experts say that the most common problems with circumcision are minor bleeding and pain.

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