Male circumcision cuts risk of cancer-causing virus
Circumcision protects men from genital herpes and a virus that causes genital warts and cancer but it does not appear to guard against syphilis, U.S. and Ugandan researchers said on Wednesday.
The report in the New England Journal of Medicine adds to the debate over whether men and newborn boys should be circumcised to protect their health and perhaps the health of their future sexual partners.
The findings from two trials in Uganda build on related research showing that circumcision cuts a man’s risk of HIV infection through heterosexual intercourse by more than 50 percent, said Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health in the United States, which funded the study.
They also come at a time when circumcision rates are declining in places like the United States even as evidence mounts that the practice can provide important health benefits.
“Medically supervised adult male circumcision is a scientifically proven method for reducing a man’s risk of acquiring HIV infection through heterosexual intercourse,” he said.
“This new research provides compelling evidence that circumcision can provide some protection against genital herpes and human papillomavirus infections as well.”
The human papillomavirus, or HPV, is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the world. It causes cervical cancer, which kills 300,000 women globally every year.
The team, which also included researchers from Johns Hopkins University in the United States and Makerere University in Uganda, conducted two parallel clinical trials to analyse the impact of male circumcision as a public health tool.
The combined results of the studies looking at more than 3,000 men showed circumcision reduced the risk of herpes by 25 percent and of HPV by one third. HPV also causes anal and penile cancers.
Circumcision also appeared to reduce the odds of genital warts but had no effect on the incidence of syphilis, the researchers added.
The study highlights the potential of using circumcision to protect people most at risk of the infections in the developing world, especially Africa, where HIV and HPV are widespread.
“Efforts to scale-up male circumcision could have tremendous benefit,” said David Serwadda of Makerere University in Uganda, who worked on the study.
Since 2007, circumcision has been promoted by the World Health Organization and the United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS as a way to reduce the risk of AIDS in areas where heterosexual transmission is high.
When done in children, the operation reduces the chance of urinary tract infections and phimosis, a problem with the foreskin.
* Findings come as circumcision rates decline
* Practice could have big impact in places like Africa
By Michael Kahn
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