Family Health Guide

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Circumcision is the surgical removal of the foreskin, a small flap of skin that covers the tip of the penis. But that little piece of skin, and whether to snip it off or leave it be, has created a big flap for new parents.

While followers of the Jewish and Islamic faiths practice circumcision for religious and cultural reasons, the practice became popular in the United States for reasons of hygiene. Many believed that the penis was easier to clean, and less prone to infection, without the foreskin in the way. But those reasons have come under attack in recent decades by critics who say that the possible benefits do not outweigh the possible risks of this elective surgery.

In August 2012, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released a new policy statement saying that the health benefits clearly outweigh the risks. The organization encourages parents to consider recent research that strongly links circumcision to the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases, including AIDS—but leaving the decision, still, in your hands. Read on for help in making an informed choice. Read on for help in making an informed choice.