Circumcision 'lowers risk of prostate cancer'
Researchers say procedure can protect against chronic inflammation
09:37 GMT, 12 March 2012
Circumcision may protect against prostate cancer, a study shows.
A study found that men who had been circumcised before they had sex for the first time were on average 15 per cent less likely to develop the illness than uncircumcised males.
They were 12 per cent less likely to develop less aggressive prostate cancer and 18 per cent less likely to suffer the more aggressive form.
A father and great grandfather at a Jewish circumcision ceremony. Three-quarters of men in the U.S compared to six per cent of men in the UK are circumcised for non-religious reasons
Jonathan Wright, of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, said that infections were known to cause cancer, with sexually transmitted infections contributing to prostate cancer.
Because circumcision can protect against infection Dr Wright reasoned it may also prevent cancer.
He and a team studied 3,399 men, around half with the disease and half without, and discovered the statistics backed up the theory.
Those who had been circumcised had had the operation before their first sexual intercourse.
The researchers say that as well as protecting against chronic inflammation circumcision may toughen the inner foreskin and remove the space beneath where pathogens can thrive.
Dr Wright said: 'These data are in line with an infectious/inflammatory pathway which may be involved in the risk of prostate cancer in some men.
'Although observational only, these data suggest a biologically plausible mechanism through which circumcision may decrease the risk of prostate cancer. Future research of this relationship is warranted.'
The results were published Monday in the
journal Cancer and add to the longstanding debate over whether boys
should keep their foreskin.
The World Health Organization already
recommends the controversial procedure based on research showing it
lowers heterosexual men's risk of contracting HIV, the virus that causes
Last year, scientists also reported that wives and girlfriends of circumcised men had lower rates of infection with human papillomavirus or HPV, which in rare cases may lead to cervical and other cancers.
Last week, researchers reported that African men who were circumcised were less likely to be infected with a particular herpes virus.
Circumcision rates vary widely between countries. According to a 2007 report from the World Health Organisation three-quarters of men in the U.S were circumcised for non-religious reasons.
However, the rate is 30 per cent in Canada and just six per cent of men have undergone the procedure in the UK.
In September, the Royal Dutch Medical Association discouraged circumcision, calling it a 'painful and harmful ritual.'