CDC to Release Circumcision Recommendations

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To snip or not to snip? That is the question on the minds of many expectant parents.

Circumcision, the centuries-old ritual of removing an infant's foreskin, has long been associated with cultural and religious practices for various reasons. Over the years, however, this practice has been on the decline.

According to The Washington Post, the rate at which U.S. male newborns are undergoing the procedure has dropped to about 56 percent since peaking at about 80 percent in the 1960s. For more than a decade, the American Academy of Pediatrics has backed away from routinely recommending circumcision, citing that the evidence of its benefits wasn't strong enough to endorse such a routine procedure.

But now, due to a spate of recent studies, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is about to step into the ring with a possible recommendation for neonatal circumcision, as well as for individual men, as an additional HIV prevention measure.
According to the latest research, circumcision has more health benefits than originally thought, including reducing the risk for urinary tract infections in infants, as well as the risks of an adult male getting penile cancer or becoming infected with sexually transmitted diseases such as syphilis, AIDS, herpes and the human papillomavirus (HPV), which causes genital warts in men and cervical cancer in women.

The CDC will release a draft of its recommendations by this summer, the Post reports, and officials are quick to point out that these will serve purely as guidance and should in no way be seen as a mandate. The division between the opposing schools of thought is fraught with emotion and science.

Critics of circumcision liken the procedure to genital mutilation.

"Circumcision is not an ethical medical procedure," Georganne Chapin, executive director of Intact America, an advocacy group in Tarrytown, N.Y., tells the Post. "You are removing a perfectly normal body part. We don't allow people to do that to their daughters. We should not let them do it to their sons."

But proponents of the procedure cite recent studies, such as the one published last week in the Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine, that say circumcision cuts the risk of getting HPV and herpes by about a third.

"If we had a vaccine that was as effective as [circumcision] at reducing the risk, we'd be jumping up and down with joy," Arleen A. Leibowitz, a professor of public policy at UCLA, tells the newspaper.

Related: Should I Have My Son Circumcised?

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.