Preventative reasons : A guide to Circumcision

It is thought that circumcision can prevent certain diseases occurring in the future such as penile cancer.

The most popular reason for circumcision is religion but prevention is the second most popular reason. It is seen as a way of reducing the risk or preventing certain medical conditions which include:

  • Penile cancer
  • Sexually transmitted diseases, e.g. syphilis
  • Urinary tract infections (UTIs)
  • HIV

Penile cancer

This is extremely rare and even more so in circumcised men. However, smoking, HIV and a poor hygiene routine can increase the risk of developing this cancer to the same extent that not being circumcised does.

This means that there is equal risk of developing this cancer between the circumcised and non-circumcised men.

Sexually transmitted diseases

Some types of sexually transmitted diseases such as syphilis and herpes simplex tend to occur in men who have not been circumcised.

Circumcision protects against syphilis due to the fact that the foreskin is an ideal breeding ground for bacteria to flourish in as well as allowing them to pass through and into the bloodstream.

Removal of the foreskin will prevent this from happening.

There is a higher risk of syphilis in uncircumcised men compared to those who have been circumcised.

But diseases such as gonorrhoea, thrush, penile warts and urethritis are far more common in circumcised men.

Yeast infections such as thrush and candida affect both groups in equal numbers.

Circumcision can help to protect against these but using a condom and practising safe sex is seen as far more effective.

Urinary tract infections

Urinary tract infections or ‘UTIs’ occur in the urinary system: this system is comprised of the kidneys, urethra and bladder. They often develop in young boys, usually around the age of four and affect uncircumcised boys more than circumcised ones.

Around 4% of boys experience a UTI before they reach 16.

Boys who have been circumcised are at less risk of catching a UTI. This may be due to the fact that bacteria which cause a UTI, gather inside the foreskin before passing through into the bloodstream. Once there they will cause an infection.

This is a risk factor for uncircumcised boys.

However, the vast majority of UTIs are mild and do not cause any long term damage: although repeated infections can lead to kidney damage.

Circumcision may be recommended in these cases.

It is also suggested where there is a birth defect which results in a back up of urine into the kidney. This occurs via the foreskin which enables bacteria to pass through it and into the bloodstream.

Circumcision can prevent that from happening but may be advised only in exceptional circumstances.


Arguments are still ongoing about whether circumcision is an effective means of preventing HIV.

One set of arguments suggests that there is a link between HIV and an uncircumcised foreskin but another set put forward an opposing view.

It may be the case that circumcision is an effective preventative measure in countries with high rates of HIV.

After reading this the decision is whether to circumcise or not. This issue still attracts a great deal of controversy which looks set to continue.


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