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Circumcision Can Help Stop Cervical Cancer

Published: January 13, 2011

Although the removal of the penile foreskin has been a religious practice for millennia (it is not only a Jewish ritual but a Muslim one as well) it has come under attack in recent decades as being both unnecessary from a heath standpoint and somewhat detrimental to sexual pleasure.

The pendulum began swinging back in favor of circumcision in recent years due to the wake of studies showing that the absence of a foreskin made certain viruses harder to contract. The fact that one of these viruses was HIV made the circumcision debate big news. The fact that herpes simplex virus type 2 (the most common form for genital herpes) was less transmissible for circumcised individuals was further good news for those who got the cut.

The latest data adds the number one sexually transmitted disease to the list: HPV. Human papilloma virus is the cause of genital warts. Long considered to be merely an annoyance for men, this virus has been shown to have grave consequences for women. In fact, certain strains of HPV are believed to be the CAUSE of cervical cancer. There have been recent moves in the medical community to promote a vaccination against this virus. This vaccination holds the promise of eliminating cervical cancer. Naturally, the Christian right has tried to argue in its usual fashion, that vaccinating young women will promote promiscuity and sin. Fortunately, the medical establishment is not swayed by such arguments, and the vaccination program is moving forward.

Men also are at greater risk for cancers of the anus, penis, head and neck thanks to this virus. This fact has gotten health authorities to push for vaccinating young men too. This makes sense, as if men don’t carry the virus they can’t give it to women who would then run the high risk of contracting cervical cancer. Their risks for contracting these other cancers would then drop too, in parallel fashion.

The fact that a low tech solution – circumcision – can help lower the transmission rate of HPV is very good news. A study in the Lancet showed a reduction in HPV transmission of 28% in circumcised men. If you are uncircumcised and your partner is documented as having HPV, as some women are, you should seriously consider having a conversation with your doctor.

There is a down side to getting the procedure. Dean Edell used to say that he wishes he had his foreskin back, but I’m not sure where he stands currently. I would venture a guess, however, that if you ask Moshe or Muhammad if they miss their foreskins I’m pretty sure they’ll say no. I do NOT presume to make a recommendation on this issue, however. This is really is one you need to go over in detail with your doctor.