Photo Credit: T. Hawley/Getty Images
Circumcision used to be a given, at least here in the United States. In 1980, almost 76 percent of all baby boys born in the Midwest were circumcised; nationally, the number was 65 percent. More recently, however, the statistics have told a different story: In 2006, just over half (56%) of all American newborns were circumcised.
An increasing number of parents (myself included) looked at their beautiful, perfect baby boys and could see absolutely no reason to cut off their foreskins. We found strength in the most recent statement about circumcision by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP): “Circumcision has potential medical benefits and advantages, as well as risks. The existing scientific evidence is not sufficient to recommend routine circumcision.”
But recent research has some expectant parents wondering if the trend away from circumcision could ultimately be harmful. The latest studies argue that circumcision decreases the spread of human papillomavirus (HPV), a virus that causes cervical, anal and oral cancers. And according to a clinical review in The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, circumcision seems to help males rid their bodies of the HPV strains most likely to cause cancer.
As a mom who’s had HPV -- and pre-cancerous changes removed from her cervix as a result -- I’m intrigued. I certainly don’t want my sons spreading HPV to my future daughters-in-law. But I’m still not sure I’d circumcise my sons, especially when there's another option: vaccination. Three injections of an HPV vaccine given over six months between the ages of 9 and 26 will protect boys from HPV as well.
New research aside, the decision whether or not to circumcise your infant son still isn't an easy one for parents to make. Read the research, weigh your options and make a decision that reflects your values. You won’t regret it.