What is circumcision?
Circumcision is the surgical removal of the foreskin (the sleeve of skin that covers the end of the penis) to expose the glans (head of the penis).
Most of the circumcisions performed in Australia are on baby boys. About 1 in 10 baby boys get circumcised.
Before the 1970s, the majority of baby boys were circumcised, so it is more common in older Australian men than in younger males.
Reasons for circumcision
Circumcision is performed for medical, cultural and religious reasons.
Medical reasons for circumcision include ongoing problems with urinary tract infections and foreskin problems, such as phimosis.
Circumcision can reduce transmission of some sexually transmitted infections, such as HIV, so there may be a benefit to public health in some groups of people at high risk.
Health effects of circumcision
Circumcised males are less likely than non-circumcised males to have urinary tract infections, phimosis, paraphimosis and balanitis, or to develop penis cancer3. However, many uncircumcised males never experience these problems.
If you have recurrent problems with your foreskin, circumcision is often an effective treatment. Circumcision is a common and usually straightforward surgical procedure, but it’s not without complications. As for any medical or surgical procedure, the potential benefits of circumcision need to be weighed against possible harms. These include surgical accidents, complications from anaesthetics, and infection after surgery.
Circumcision is a less complicated operation in baby boys than it is in older boys and men. Complication rates are also lower if circumcision is done to prevent disease, rather than to treat an existing problem.
Circumcision does not seem to result in any benefit or advantage when it comes to sexual function.
What to do about circumcision
If your doctor has recommended circumcision for an existing health problem, there’s probably a good reason for the suggestion. You should talk with your doctor about any concerns you may have.
Whether the preventive benefit of circumcision is worthwhile for newborn babies is a decision for parents, with the guidance of medical care professionals.
This content is modified from Healthy Male: healthymale.org.au. This information has been provided for educational purposes only. It is not intended to take the place of a clinical diagnosis or proper medical advice from a fully qualified health professional. Healthy Male and International Society of Andrology both urge readers to seek the services of a qualified medical practitioner for any personal health concerns.