Revising its policy on circumcision for the first time in 13 years, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) now says that the preventative health benefits of infant circumcision clearly outweigh the risks. The AAP is also emphasizing that the procedure should be covered by third party payers, including Medicaid, so more families have access to it. However, the organization stopped short of recommending circumcision routinely for all infant boys, saying it’s still up to parents to weigh the health, cultural, and religious implications to make the best decision for their child.
Circumcision is the surgical removal of the foreskin, a small flap of skin that covers the tip of the penis, generally performed in the days after birth. Many Jews and Muslims circumcise their sons because of their religious beliefs. Other parents choose to snip for hygiene reasons, believing it’s easier to keep a circumcised penis clean, or cosmetic ones, wanting junior to “look like dad.”
The AAP’s previous policy statement, published in 1999 and affirmed in 2005, took a more neutral stance on circumcision, noting “potential medical benefits,” but saying it’s “not essential to the child's current well-being.” However, an AAP task force formed in 2007 examined scientific studies conducted between 1995 through 2010 to evaluate if a revision was needed. The new, stronger language is a result of emerging evidence that found links between circumcision and decreased risk of urinary tract infections, some kinds of cancer, HPV, HIV, and other sexually transmitted diseases. “The evidence was becoming clearer, and it’s now obvious there’s a preventative effect,” says Michael Brady, M.D., chairman of the department of pediatrics at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, OH, and a member of the AAP task force.