Penile circumcision causes significant changes in the microbiome by reducing bacteria which may potentially cause inflammation and cancer, a new study suggests.
The study published in the journal European Urology Focus in December analyzed 11 paired samples from the periurethral area.
It found that circumcision notably reduced bacteria and fungi, particularly anaerobic bacteria, which are known to be potential inducers of inflammation and cancer.
The study authors say that changes that occur after circumcision may explain “the differences in cancer and inflammatory disorders in adulthood.”
Circumcision is the surgical removal of the skin covering the tip of the penis and is usually performed on newborn babies. The procedure usually takes about 20 minutes and is well tolerated.
The procedure is common in North America, West Africa, and the Middle East as a religious ritual or preventative health measure. In the U.S., about 64% of newborn boys undergo circumcision.
The procedure is associated with potential health benefits, including:
- Better hygiene, as a circumcised penis is easier to wash.
- Decreased risk of the urinary tract and sexually transmitted infections, including HIV.
- Prevention of penile problems, such as balanoposthitis, paraphimosis, and phimosis.
- Reduced risk of penile cancer. Female sexual partners of circumcised men are less likely to develop cervical cancer.
Circumcision is not recommended for boys with certain clotting disorders, premature babies who still require medical care in the hospital nursery, or those born with abnormalities of the penis.
Adults can also undergo circumcision, but it is performed in a hospital with anesthesia.
As with any other medical procedures, circumcision carries certain risks, including bleeding, infection, reaction to anesthesia, pain, and meatitis, which is an inflamed opening of the penis. It is possible to cut the foreskin too long or too short.
- European Urology Focus. Characterization of Changes in Penile Microbiome Following Pediatric Circumcision.
- Mayo Clinic. Circumcision (male).
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Trends in Circumcision for Male Newborns in U.S. Hospitals: 1979–2010.
- Cleveland Clinic. Circumcision.