ATLANTA (CBS ATLANTA) — Fewer male infants in the U.S. are being circumcised, and new research finds that nearly half of all uncircumcised males will contract a medical ailment related to their foreskin.
New data published in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings finds that the circumcision rate among newborns has declined from 83 percent in the 1960s to 77 percent by 2010, according to CBS News. The study shows that the health benefits of circumcision for newborns exceed the risks by at least 100 to one, but the authors speculate that cultural and educational disparities have driven down the rates.
“Infant circumcision should be regarded as equivalent to childhood vaccination,” Brian Morris, coauthor of the new report and professor emeritus in the School of Medical Sciences at the University of Sydney, in a press release, CBS News reports. “As such, it would be unethical not to routinely offer parents circumcision for their baby boy. Delay puts the child’s health at risk and will usually mean it will never happen.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the overall circumcision rate for males aged 14 to 59 in the U.S. is 81 percent. Circumcision rates among white men in the U.S. was 91 percent, 76 percent in black men, but only 44 percent in Hispanic men.
Morris and his colleagues speculate that the rising Hispanic population the U.S. is less familiar with the procedure and its health benefits. They also suggest that gaps in health insurance, such as Medicaid, have led many families to pass on the procedure for financial reasons. According to CBS
News, circumcision rates are nearly one-quarter (24 percent) lower in states without Medicaid coverage for the poor.
Data from the CDC finds that male circumcision reduces the risk that a man will acquire HIV from an infected female partner, and also lowers the risk of other STDs , penile cancer, and infant urinary tract infection. In addition, the foreskin of uncircumcised males may have greater susceptibility to tears during intercourse that could provide the entryway for pathogens, including HIV.
The CDC notes that reported circumcision rates may be subject to misclassification because a study of adolescents showed that only 69 percent of circumcised men and 65 percent of uncircumcised men were able to correctly identify their circumcision status as verified by a physical exam. Among uncircumcised men, the adult lifetime risk for a UTI is nearly one-in-three.
Some opponents of circumcision argue that the removal of the foreskin decreases sensitivity and hinders sensation during sexual activities. Other opponents take a human rights standpoint, arguing circumcision is unethical because families should not be able to make such a decision for an infant.