- Dear Mike,
Circumcision may reduce risk of sexually transmitted infections. Studies show that circumcised men have a 25 per cent lower risk of genital herpes and a 35 per cent lower risk of HPV, the virus that causes genital warts and cancers.
These findings indicate that circumcision should now be accepted as an efficacious intervention for reducing heterosexually acquired infections with HSV-2, HPV (the virus that can cause cervical cancer), and HIV in adolescent boys and men. Some studies have suggested that circumcised men may also be at lower risk of syphilis. Nevertheless, circumcised men in the study had fewer genital ulcers.
How can circumcision prevent STDs? In at least three ways:
- When the foreskin is removed, the skin covering the head of the penis becomes tougher. That may protect against “microtears” during intercourse that can provide a point of entry for germs.
The mucosal lining of the foreskin may allow germs to penetrate to underlying skin cells.
After intercourse, the foreskin may prolong the time that tender skin is exposed to germs.
Research studies may vary, but they certainly do not lie. In the United States for example, the rates of circumcision are declining and are lowest among black and Hispanic patients, groups in whom rates of HIV, herpes, and cervical cancer are disproportionately high. I do not believe that’s a coincidence.
Dr. De La Flor, G.P. is licensed in medicine & general surgery. He holds certificates in nutrition, medical exercise and human performance from the University of Berkeley in California, the American Council on Exercise and the U.S. National Strength & Conditioning Association. He is a strong believer in work/life balance and spends much of his time outside of his surgery on the tennis court or chasing his four kids around the neighborhood.