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Benefits of circumcision outweigh the risks, US CDC says

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New CDC guidelines support male circumcision, but stop short of recommending the procedure

Surgeons in an operating room
Surgeons in an operating room
Andy G

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention support male circumcision procedures for male newborns and teenagers in the US, according to a draft of federal guidelines released today. The guidelines stop short of recommending the procedure for all newborns. Instead, they suggest that parents should receive counseling from their physicians to discuss the benefits and risks of the procedure. Uncircumcised male teenagers should also receive counseling — along with their parents.

"50 to 60 percent reduction of HIV transmission."

Cutting the foreskin around the tip of the penis can significantly reduce the risk of acquiring HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. "It’s important to know that male circumcision has been associated with a 50 to 60 percent reduction of HIV transmission, as well as a reduction in sexually transmitted infections such as herpes, bacterial vaginosis, and the human papilloma virus (HPV), which causes penile and cervical cancer," Jonathan Mermin, director of the National Center for HIV/AIDS at the CDC, told the Associated Press.

The procedure is controversial. It isn't accepted in all cultures, and some men decry having been "mutilated" without their consent when they were circumcised as babies. Moreover, the Associated Press reports that some groups believe that the CDC has minimized the risk of complications in its guidelines.

The rate of circumcision in the US is currently in decline. In 1979, the rate was about 68 percent, but it dropped by 10 percent in 30 years, Reuters reports. But as circumcision rates dropped, the number of medical studies that support the procedure increased — which prompted the CDC to publish the draft of its guidelines.

The rate of circumcision is in decline

The recommendations will now undergo a 45-day public comment period. They will also go through external peer review before being finalized. "Our role is to provide accurate information," Mermin said, "so people can make informed decisions."

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