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CDC: Benefits of Circumcision Outweigh Risks

The Short of It

Newborn circumcision has long been the subject of passionate debate. Now for the first time, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are taking a stance, saying the benefits of the procedure outweigh the risks.

The Lowdown

Whether to circumcise a baby boy is still a personal decision, says the CDC. But based on scientific evidence, the federal government has come out in support of the procedure, urging health insurers to pay for it.

According to the CDC, the biggest benefit of getting circumcised is a lower risk of contracting HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases by as much as 60 percent.

"Given the urgency of the HIV epidemic in the United States, CDC believes it is essential to maximize the impact of all available prevention options. Male circumcision is one strategy that may help reduce the continued spread of HIV in the U.S.," the new guidelines state.

Other benefits include a lower risk of developing urinary tract infections and diseases, such as cancer of the penis.

The CDC's report also notes that getting circumcised as an infant is less risky than having the procedure done as an adult.

Issuing the new guidelines may be a reaction to the fact that circumcision rates in the United States are dropping. Advocacy groups opposed to the procedure may be partly responsible. It's their view that circumcising a baby boy is akin to involuntary genital mutilation.

As such, you can imagine they're not happy with the CDC for having taken such a strong position.

The Upshot

The new guidelines urge doctors to discuss the benefits of, and to recommend, circumcision for newborn baby boys. But religious and cultural opposition to the practice is to be respected, of course.

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