Circumcision is a personal decision, but new guidelines from the CDC will give parents more information to help them make the choice that's right for their baby.
It seems like circumcision—the subject of a long-standing debate among experts, parents, and the general public—just got another vote in its favor. In its first draft guidelines on the procedure, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that doctors educate both parents and uncircumcised adult males about its various benefits. Specifically, the CDC highlighted that clinical trials showed that male circumcision reduced a heterosexual man's odds of contracting an HIV infection by 50 to 60 percent. These trials also found that circumcision reduced the risk of men acquiring genital herpes and certain strains of human papilloma virus (HPV)—which can cause penile cancer and other cancers—by 30 percent or more.
Circumcision is the surgical removal of a layer of skin covering the tip of the penis, called the foreskin. It's a procedure that people have been performing around the world for thousands of years. However, it has also been the subject of much controversy: some people, called intactivists, say that it's unethical to perform the surgery on an infant who has no say in the matter. They argue that it's a drastic, unnecessary, painful procedure that can result in adverse effects. (Inflammation and minor bleeding are the most common negative effects, but they occur in less than .5 percent of newborns, around 9 percent of older children and 5 percent of adults, according to the CDC.) Other people, such as those of Jewish or Islamic faith, choose to have their sons circumcised primarily for religious or cultural reasons. Some choose circumcision because of family tradition or for hygiene reasons, while others look at the various health benefits—which along with the reduction in HIV and other STD risk includes a lower risk of urinary tract infections—and say it's certainly something worth considering.
The CDC isn't the first major health organization to tout the advantages of circumcision. In 2012, the American Academy of Pediatrics changed its policy statement on circumcision from one of neutrality to one that explains that the benefits outweigh any potential risks. Neither the CDC nor the American Academy of Pediatrics outright recommends circumcision for all infant males, as they note that it's a very personal decision based on family, religious or cultural beliefs. However, it's very clear that both organizations, as well as many experts, at least want new parents to know the procedure's many advantages so they can make an informed decision.