Circumcision

Joe Kerr

In time, our coach, who also taught health education, explained that we all started out just like Leon -- uncircumcised. In fact, our Midwestern, circumcised units were actually the minority when compared to the rest of the world.

Circumcision is a fairly simple procedure, typically performed shortly after an infant's birth. The foreskin of the penis is snipped and removed. The procedure is performed for religious reasons (within the Jewish and Islamic faiths) or social reasons (dad's penis is circumcised). In the 1800s, it was believed that circumcision helped prevent masturbation. Any circumcised man, however, will tell you this is not true.

To Snip or Not to Snip?
It is widely -- and falsely -- believed that uncircumcised men stand a greater risk of penile cancer. "As long as the penis is kept clean, there is no linkage between uncircumcised penises and a higher risk of penile cancer," says J. Antonio Alacron, M.D., a urologist in Monterey Park, CA. In fact, in 1999, the American Academy of Pediatrics revised its circumcision policy statement and concluded that there is not sufficient data to support the supposed potential health benefits of circumcision. The organization no longer advocates routine neonatal circumcision.

Alacron says that only 1 to 2 percent of males need to be circumcised for medical reasons. Phimosis (the foreskin will not retract) and paraphimosis (the foreskin will not go back over the head of the penis once retracted) are conditions that require circumcision to alleviate the problem.

If you are sporting the uncut look, you do have to take a little extra care in the hygiene department. Alacron recommends a simple soap and water routine. First, make sure that the foreskin is rolled back so that a good cleansing can take place. Following cleansing, the head of the penis should be dried, and then the skin should be pulled back over the head.

How's It Hanging?
The difference between a circumcised penis and an uncircumcised one is largely cosmetic. Because most male Americans are circumcised as infants, a circumcised penis is the one we tend to be most familiar with. A circumcised penis is comprised of a smooth shaft topped by the head of the penis. In contrast, an uncircumcised penis has the foreskin still attached. When the penis is flaccid, this foreskin extends over the head, resembling a stocking cap.

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