Evidence continues to indicate that male circumcision reduces the risk of sexually transmitted infections and even certain types of cancer. In the past week alone, studies have pointed to a significant reduction in the risk of HIV infection in heterosexual African American men, known to have been exposed to the virus. In other studies, male circumcision has been linked to reduced risk of human papillomavirus (HPV) infection and cervical, penile, and other cancers.
Several investigations have linked circumcised males to an decreased risk of HIV infection. However, these studies were limited in scope, so pointed to a need for a more substantive investigation. Now, Dr. Lee Warner and colleagues, have published their findings relating to over 26,000 African American men. The full report is available in the January edition of The Journal of Infectious Diseases. The report suggests that being circumcised was associated with a 51 percent reduction in HIV prevalence (10.2 percent of circumcised men versus 22.0 percent of uncircumcised men).
Commenting on the significance of the findings, Dr. Ronald Gray of the Johns Hopkins University, pointed out that circumcision may be particularly important for minority U.S. populations, including Hispanic and African American males, as these populations are most at risk from HIV infection. To date, Medicaid does not cover the procedure, but such is the weight of evidence in favor of circumcision for the prevention of HIV, that this may persuade a change of view.
Meanwhile, the internet science journal ScienceDaily, report on two further studies also published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases. Dr. Bertran Auvert, and colleagues, compared urethral swab samples from circumcised and uncircumcised men, in the 18-24 age range. Information about sexual behavior was also collected. Once the results were analyzed the proportion of high-risk HPV was found to be lower in the circumcised men.
Dr. Carrie Nielson, at the Oregon Health & Science University and colleagues from the University of Arizona, tested over four hundred men in two U.S. cities, during 2002-2005. Sixteen percent of the sample were uncircumcised. The research team found that circumcised men were half as likely to have HPV. Because of the reduced risk of HPV infection it is surmised that this reduces the risk of cervical cancer.
Dr. Gray evaluates the findings as persuasive but not entirely consistent. He feels it would be prudent to wait for the findings of two ongoing trials of male circumcision before promoting the notion of male circumcision as a way to prevent HPV infection in men and to protect female sex partners from infection.
Published On: December 21, 2008