Print
PDF
Dec
01

The Circumcision Decision - Page 2

Author // Lauren Jenks

Article Index
The Circumcision Decision
Page 2
All Pages

Less Chance of Penile Cancer/HPV

Penile cancer is among the diseases circumcision claims to prevent. It’s important to remember, however, that penile cancer is incredibly rare. Did you know that more men are diagnosed and more deaths occur from male breast cancer than penile cancer? The chance of dying from penile cancer is so low that it is not even presented separately by the National Cancer Institute at cancer.gov—it is lumped in with all male genital cancers (including testicular cancer and the much more common prostate cancer) at a total of 310 estimated deaths in 2010. Compare this to the annual circumcision death rate of approximately 117 neonates (first month of life). That’s more than SIDS (115 annually) and more than suffocation (44) and auto accidents (8) combined. (Statistics reported by Saving Babies, at saving-babies .blogspot.com.)

The Journal of Infectious Diseases published a study on the baseline prevalence of penile, scrotal and perineal/ perianal human papillomavirus (HPV) in heterosexual men on five continents. It found that “Neither condom usage nor circumcision was associated with HPV DNA prevalence.”

One of the most compelling items I found on the subject of penile and cervical cancer was a letter written from the American Cancer Society to the American Academy of Pediatrics:

As representatives of the American Cancer Society, we would like to discourage the American Academy of Pediatrics from promoting routine circumcision as preventative measure for penile or cervical cancer. The American Cancer Society does not consider routine circumcision to be a valid or effective measure to prevent such cancers.

Research suggesting a pattern in the circumcision status of partners of women with cervical cancer is methodologically flawed, outdated and has not been taken seriously in the medical community for decades.

Likewise, research claiming a relationship between circumcision and penile cancer is inconclusive. Penile cancer is an extremely rare condition, affecting one in 200,000 men in the United States. Penile cancer rates in countries which do not practice circumcision are lower than those found in the United States. Fatalities caused by circumcision accidents may approximate the mortality rate from penile cancer.

Portraying routine circumcision as an effective means of prevention distracts the public from the task of avoiding the behaviors proven to contribute to penile and cervical cancer: especially cigarette smoking and unprotected sexual relations with multiple partners. Perpetuating the mistaken belief that circumcision prevents cancer is inappropriate.


Better Done During Infancy

It has often been said that circumcision is better to be performed on an infant for various reasons, but it is important to look at the subject logically. If a man is left intact, he can always choose to be circumcised later. However, once a circumcision is performed, it cannot be undone. There are many cases of men who are unhappy with their circumcision, and wish that they had the choice.

Even if a man opts for circumcision later, not only would he have the choice, but he would also get adequate pain medication for the surgery and understand what is happening to his body. A large majority of routine infant circumcisions are performed without any anesthetic. In fact, up to 96 percent of the babies in the United States and Canada receive no anesthesia when they are circumcised, according to a report from the University of Alberta in Edmonton.

This has many parents (and medical professionals) concerned about the pain associated with circumcision, but is a local anesthetic even enough? In a recent research study, 11 male newborns were circumcised with a local dorsal penile nerve block, and 13 controls were circumcised without anesthetic. When the adrenal cortisol levels were compared, response to surgery was not significantly reduced by the administration of lidocaine. Some doctors use EMLA cream, a topical combination of lidocaine and prilocaine, as an anesthetic. Not only is EMLA cream less effective than a lidocaine injection, but the manufacturer’s insert warns against its use on infants and on the genitals of children.

The truth of the matter is, infants cannot get adequate pain treatment, including post-op pain medication, like an adult can. They don’t understand what is happening to their bodies, and most of all, they don’t have a choice.


Needing to Look Like Dad

This was a very important issue for me. My husband is circumcised, and so is his oldest son. I was worried that there would be issues with the new baby being different than his dad and brother. I didn’t want him to feel different or alone.

I found out that a distant family member was kept intact, even though his older brother and dad were circumcised. Although it seemed like it would be an awkward conversation, I just had to have my husband ask him about it. So he did. It turned out that he really didn’t care and it was never a big deal.

I connected with other men who grew up intact with circumcised dads, and they laughed, saying, “I don’t even remember what my dad’s penis looked like…and quite frankly, I wouldn’t want to remember!”

It all made sense, even though I never thought of it that way. To my surprise, it just wasn’t an issue for these men. There were even online groups dedicated to keeping future sons intact, and I spoke with hundreds of parents who had made this same decision. Many of them now had grown children, and were happy to share their experience with me. I asked many questions, and it came down to this: As parents, we can only do what we think is best for our children. But we also need to be able to grow and learn, so we can always make the best decisions possible. Sometimes, we learn that a past decision wasn’t necessarily the best, and that is OK. We adapt and move on, and our children will understand that. As Maya Angelou put it, “I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.”


Needing to Fit in with His Peers

“Getting made fun of in the locker room” was a very common response for potential issues for uncircumcised boys. This was also an important issue for me, similar to the need for my son to look like his father and brother. While this might have been an issue for men in previous generations, it is just not the same for boys growing up today.

In 2010, a slide presented by a CDC researcher at the International AIDS Conference in Vienna claimed that circumcision rates in the U.S. had dropped to 32.5 percent in 2009. While this number was not actually endorsed by the CDC, their 2010 reports still show circumcision rates have dropped over the years (54.7 percent in 2010). No matter which number you believe, the results are the same: circumcision rates are falling in the United States. With nearly half of American parents or more saying no to circumcision, intact boys will no longer be in the minority. Boys growing up in today’s generation will have the same amount of peers who are intact vs. circumcised.

Some regions in the U.S. have a higher percentage of intact males, while other regions have a lower percentage, so it will vary depending on your location. However, it is important to remember that no matter what, children will differ from each other in a variety of ways. Some will be considered too smart, not smart enough, too fat, too thin, too tall, too short…the list goes on and on. The main thing is to be sure to teach our children to understand that they are unique and that they should love themselves for who they are. After all, they are special in their own ways, and that will never change.


The Whole Truth

Fast-forward to now, and my son is happy, healthy and has never had a single problem whatsoever with being intact. As I’ve continued to research the subject, I’ve learned so much more than I could have imagined, such as the many important functions of the foreskin and how specialized it is. It is truly so much more than a “flap of skin.”

I’ve been so moved by the plethora of information I have discovered, that I even founded a grassroots nonprofit organization called the WHOLE Network. I wanted to be able to reach other parents who were in the same shoes as I was, and make sure they had a place for accurate information and support. As more and more parents seek out information, we continue to grow and help others. We have locations in all 50 states, as well as various countries worldwide. If anyone ever has any questions, we would love to help them get the accurate information they need.

We know that parents want what is best for their children. We understand that many moms and dads are simply trusting in the advice of their doctors or family. We aren’t here to condemn parents, or to make them feel guilty for past decisions. We are here to empower parents and inform them so that they can make educated decisions for the ones that they love most.


Pathways Issue 44 CoverThis article appeared in Pathways to Family Wellness magazine, Issue #44.

View Article Resources.

View Author Bio.

To purchase this issue, Order Here.