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April 3, 1997

Circumcision tied to higher STD risk
More varied
sex practices
also linked
to common

By Suzanne Zolfo

        Parents who are planning to circumcise their infant sons because they think they will be reducing their risk of infections later in life may want to consider the results of a new study.
        Contrary to popular belief, circumcising male infants does not reduce their risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases, a benefit that physicians have long been associated with the practice, Chicago researchers said Tuesday.
More info:
* History of Circumcision
* Circumcision Information and Resource Pages
* Journal of the American Medical Association
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        In fact, circumcised men were found to be slightly more likely to contract a sexually transmitted disease in their study of 1,410 American men.
        While none of the 353 uncircumcised men ever had chlamydia, 26 of the 1,033 circumcised men had contracted the disease, according to the study.
        The only medical benefit of circumcision the researchers identified was that circumcised men had a slightly lower risk of experiencing sexual dysfunction later in life, reported Edward O. Laumann and colleagues from the University of Chicago.
        A lthough circumcisions have been performed for religious reasons for centuries, the practice became widespread in the 1870s when physicians thought it would improve hygiene and limit sexual practices such as masturbation and oral sex, the researchers wrote in this week’s issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association.
        Ironically, men who had been circumcised were more likely to engage in more varied sexual practices, although there were differences across ethnic groups, they found.
        In particular, circumcised men were 40 percent more likely than non-circumcised men to masturbate at least once a month. They were also more likely to have had homosexual oral sex and heterosexual anal intercourse, Laumann reported.
        Circumcised white men were more likely to take part in these sexual practices than circumcised Hispanic and black men, the researchers found.
        Circumcision was more prevalent among whites, so there may be a social stigma attached to being white and uncircumcised, the researchers surmised.
        And if not being circumcised carries a negative cultural association in the white population, uncircumcised white men may not be as willing to engage in a broad range of sexual practices, Laumann wrote.
        Sexual problems, such as a lack of interest in sex and premature ejaculation, was somewhat less prevalent among circumcised men than uncircumcised men, he reported.
        About 45 percent of both circumcised and uncircumcised men experienced sexual dysfunction, with the circumcised men only about 0.6 times as likely to have such problems, according to the study.
        Circumcision for non-religious reasons is still a relatively common practice in the United States when compared with other countries that adopted the practice around the same time including England, Canada and Australia, the researchers wrote.
        Laumann and his team found that 77 percent of the 1,284 U.S.-born men were circumcised, compared with 42 percent of the 115 non-U.S.-born men.
        Although the results are enlightening in terms of infection prevalence and sexual practices, the researchers neither advocate nor advise against circumcision
        “Our results support the view that physicians and parents be informed of the potential benefits and risks before circumcising newborns,” Laumann wrote.

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