Sex Ed

To Circumcise Or Not To Circumcise? A Critical Look At The Research

March 27, 2017 by Justin Lehmiller

In the United States today, most male infants are circumcised. Many in the medical community strongly support this practice, pointing to research finding a link between circumcision and better health outcomes. Specifically, studies suggest that men who are circumcised have a lower risk of developing urinary tract infections, contracting STIs, and developing penile cancer.

On the surface, that might sound like a pretty convincing set of reasons to support routine male circumcision. However, a closer look at the evidence reveals that the story isn’t quite as simple as that. I recently published an article on VICE’s new health channel, TONIC, in which I take a critical look at the research supporting each of the proposed health benefits of circumcision.

For example, while circumcision may reduce the rate of urinary tract infections and penile cancer, both of these are relatively rare health conditions to begin with, meaning that tons of boys need to be circumcised to prevent even one person from developing either of these health conditions. Plus, circumcision isn’t a risk-free procedure–it introduces potential side effects and complications of its own, which offsets any potential health gains to some degree.

Check out the full article in TONIC to learn more, including why the research on circumcision and STI rates has–at best–unclear implications for sexual health in the U.S. While you’re over at TONIC, check out some of my other recent articles on sex and health here.

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Image Source: Guan Toh

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Written by
Dr. Justin Lehmiller
Founder & Owner of Sex and Psychology

Dr. Justin Lehmiller is a social psychologist and Research Fellow at The Kinsey Institute. He runs the Sex and Psychology blog and podcast and is author of the popular book Tell Me What You Want. Dr. Lehmiller is an award-winning educator, and a prolific researcher who has published more than 50 academic works.

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