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Circumcision Reduces Virus that Leads to Cervical Cancer

By HERWriter
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Circumcision is an age-old practice typically performed for religious beliefs. However, a recent study reported that circumcised men have less of a chance of spreading HPV (human papilloma virus) to their female partners. HPV has been found to be a primary cause of cervical cancer. As a result, those female partners have a lower risk of developing cervical cancer as compared to those women whose male partners are not circumcised.

HPV infections are a group of over 150 viruses, approximately 40 of which are sexually transmitted. Two types of the viruses, HPV-6 and HPV-11, cause genital warts; however the warts may take weeks to months to appear after exposure and in some people may never develop, though they have been infected with the virus. It has been found that HPV infections are the cause of virtually all cervical cancers. “It was estimated that, in 2010, about 12,000 women in the United States would be diagnosed with this type of cancer and more than 4,000 would die from it," according to the National Cancer Institute.

Dr. Maria Wawer and other researchers from John Hopkins University in Baltimore performed two parallel studies in Uganda between the years of 2003 to 2006. They enrolled non-HIV males and non-HIV females who were divided into two groups. One group had circumcisions performed at the start of the study and the other (the control group) had circumcisions performed 24 months later. HPV infections were diagnosed using vaginal swabs. At the end of the two years, 27.8 percent of women whose steady partners had circumcisions developed HPV versus 38.7 percent of the women with non-circumcised partners, a 10 percent reduction.

Circumcision is thought to prevent the spread of HPV infections due to the finding that the foreskin of the penis is rich in immune cells. It has been found that HIV infections occur at a higher rate in non-circumcised males and it is believed that removal of this skin prevents the occurrence of other viral infections as well.

“Male circumcision has now been shown to decrease HIV, herpes simplex virus-2 and HPV infections,” according to Wawer’s team. They went on to point out that other sexually transmitted infections such as trichomoniasis and bacterial vaginosis also are decreased in women whose partners have been circumcised.

It is important to point out that circumcision is not an alternative for safe sex practices, and additionally, that studies have not been performed that support if the same protection exists in male to male contact.

Current medical thinking supports that circumcision does in fact have medical reasons for being performed and should be a consideration in males as more than just a religious practice.



Michele is an R.N. freelance writer with a special interest in woman’s healthcare and quality of care issues. Other articles by Michele are at www.helium.com/users/487540/show_articles

Add a Comment14 Comments

EmpowHER Guest

How selfish is it for women to use lower cervical cancer as a reason to circumcise baby boys?
so now it's the babies fault? A woman contracts HPV because she didn't use a condom, and it's the uncircumcised babies fault?
So adult women's health is forced on an infant male?
Would we force adult men health issues on baby girls?

it doesnt matter if circumcision reduces HPV, at all. its the boys body, and the women's responsibility to practice safe sex

If boys have to lose 20,000 for women's health, what are they going to owe us?

April 16, 2011 - 4:07pm
EmpowHER Guest

The key to preventing invasive cervical cancer is to detect any cell changes early, before they become cancerous. Regular pelvic examinations and Pap smears are the best way to do this.
Causes of Cervical Cancer

[link removed by moderator]

March 3, 2011 - 1:55am
EmpowHER Guest

The best book I have read so far on HPV is the national and international award winning book: The HPV Vaccine Controversy: Sex, cancer, God and Politics by Shobha Krishnan. M.D. http://www.thehpvbook.com/ She is also the Founder and President of The Global Initiative Against HPV and Cervical Cancer http://www.giahc.org/.

January 27, 2011 - 6:04pm

You say "other sexually transmitted infections such as trichomoniasis and bacterial vaginosis also are decreased in women whose partners have been circumcised. "
Yet as its title implies, this paper: -
J Infect Dis. 2009 Aug 1;200(3):370-378. Adult Male Circumcision Does Not Reduce the Risk of Incident Neisseria gonorrhoeae, Chlamydia trachomatis, or Trichomonas vaginalis Infection: Results from a Randomized, Controlled Trial in Kenya by Supriya D. Mehta, Stephen Moses, Kawango Agot, Corette Parker, Jeckoniah O. Ndinya-Achola, Ian Maclean, and Robert C. Bailey

- found no reduction in those diseases in men. How, pray, can circumcising men reduce those infections in women without affecting the men?

And it is not enough to show that any procedure "reduces the incidence" of this or that complaint. From what? To what? By the circumcisionists' own figures, it would take >440 circumcisions to prevent one UTI, >1000 to prevent one penile cancer. (In fact, the penile cancer claim has been thoroughly debunked.)

You say "HPV is the cause of virtually all cervical cancer." That's shroud-waving. The great majority of HPV is harmless - it's a very common virus (I must have had it, because I once had a papilloma on my ear - at the site of a piercing) that the body readily gets rid of by itself. This study did not actually look at cervical cancer, only HPV.

Circumcision is a "cure" looking for a disease. It has been looking for cervical cancer since 1904, without success.

You say "circumcision ... should be a consideration in males". Any male who wants to have (the best) part of his penis cut off is perfectly free do do so. The ethical issue is doing it to babies, who are not at risk of contracting HIV - let alone cervical cancer! - and may grow up to resent it bitterly.

January 27, 2011 - 1:53pm
EmpowHER Guest

Hmmm... These folks go all the way to Africa and find a 23% HPV risk change after they cut off parts of grown mens penis in Uganda (a place with water issues). Then this is blasted all over the news, even though the actual study is actually old and has been reported months ago (just some paper that looks at the data again). The same folks that did the study showed that women that have sex with circumcision men have a 50% higher risk than sex with natural men (and that study got very little attention). Isn't that more significant? Meanwhile back in the States, several studies were conducted that show that in the UNITED STATES cut or natural have the same amount of HPV as cut men and ONLY the number of sexual partners and not circumcision status is linked to HPV risk. These important point are left out. If the risk change in Uganda is 23% I will tell my son to bring condoms, in the US there is NO risk change and I will still tell my son to use condoms. But he is lucky as he has all of his genital parts including 20000 pleasure giving stretch and touch sensing nerves that have been cut off many other American kids. This is certainly an attempt by those that like this practice to try to keep it going with FEAR. Male circumcision is a heinous practice. The US medical community is Obsessed with cutting off penis parts. Lets ge get the real news, if you have water the circumcision health benefit virtually nil,

It is also interesting that male circumcision lowering HIV risk is thrown around like a fact and yet real world data absolutely contradicts the 3 Africa studies. Many have pointed to the high circ rate and high HIV rate in the US compared to the low circ rate and LOW HIV rate in EU and JP. However, few mention that within the US, there is no HIV (nor HPV , STD) advantage to missing parts of the penis. What has gotten my attention is that in many of the countries that have started a circumcision campaign, the % of cut men with HIV is much higher than natural penis men with HIV. In Swaziland the infection rate for circumcised males is at 22 per cent while for those with a natural penis it is 20 per cent. IN Kenya they just did a study of a group and circumcision status was not associated with HIV or HSV-2 seroprevalence or current genital ulceration. How do these studies and the US, EU and JP data not match the Africa studies data? The 60% lowering that was really about 53%) and that is really a 1.6% risk change of the three often cited Africa studies has not been detected in the industrialized world and has also not been detected in places in Africa as noted. And again why is the other Africa study ignored that clearly showed circumcised men were passing HIV to women at a rate more than 50% higher than natural penis men.
Finally why is female circumcision never mentioned for HIV risk reduction. I would be very much against that even if voluntary (voluntary programs rely on coercion). Nevertheless, Stallings et al. (2009) reported that, in Tanzanian women, the risk of HIV among women who had undergone Female Circumcision was roughly half that of women who had not; the association remained significant after adjusting for region, household wealth, age, lifetime partners, and union status. Female circumcision and HIV infection in Tanzania: for better or for worse? (3rd IAS conference on HIV pathogenesis and treatment) International AIDS Society. Kanki et al. reported that, in Senegalese prostitutes, women who had undergone Female Circumcision had a significantly decreased risk of HIV-2 infection when compared to those who had not. Kanki P, M'Boup S, Marlink R, et al. "Prevalence and risk determinants of human immunodeficiency virus type 2 (HIV-2) and human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) in west African female prostitutes Am. J. Epidemiol. 136 (7): 895-907. PMID

January 27, 2011 - 6:57am

Whoa, I can see we have stirred the pot of controversy here and I assume some people have their google alerts set to pick up articles on circumcision. I am not going to go rounds and rounds on this topic. There are studies to support that circumcision prevents HIV transmission and other diseases.
(there are 42 articles on their source list)

You are against this. You want your voice heard. We hear you.
I write articles that present reputable scientific data in studies. I may or may not support what the studies show but I made sure to cover the part I was most curious about. Why should circumcision make a difference?

In terms of your question about labiaplasty and lower HPV transmission rates to men,
"HPV infection is found in about half of all penile cancers." per

However, as I stated in my article HPV is the cause of virtually all cervical cancer. The risk is considerably greater.

BTW, also from this same cancer.org source.
"Circumcision seems to protect against penile cancer when it is done shortly after birth. Although men who were circumcised as babies have a lower chance of getting penile cancer than those who were not, studies looking at this issue have not found the same protective effect if the foreskin is removed later in life. The reasons for this are not entirely clear, but may be related to other known risk factors."

Healthcare is all about risk versus benefit decisions. Typically, no choice is totally satisfactory but it is determined to be the best decision based on the data we know.

January 26, 2011 - 8:42pm
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Michele Blacksberg RN)

"Healthcare is all about risk versus benefit decisions. Typically, no choice is totally satisfactory but it is determined to be the best decision based on the data we know."
This seems like backwards healthcare - cutting off a healthy section of male genitalia, then frantically searching for "benefits" to rationalize it.
As a medical professional, would you usually recommend removing normal, healthy body parts? For instance, would you recommend double mastectomies for all infant females to help prevent breast cancer?
The only reason we are even discussing this is because it has become traditional. Consider this: if similar benefits were expected from removing some of the skin surrounding the labia or clitoris, would you advocate it as good healthcare, requiring risk versus benefit decisions?

February 16, 2013 - 10:41pm
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Michele Blacksberg RN)

^^ There are studies to support that circumcision prevents HIV ^^

The same authors you are now quoting about HPV (Wawer/Gray) reported in 2009 that circumcising Ugandan men made them 50% MORE likely to infect their partners with HIV.

The same author (Bailey) of the largest HIV study you just linked reported in 2010 that circumcised and intact men had HIV at the same rate after all.

It's not just you cherry picking. The study authors mentioned went on extensive media blitzes every time they got a result promoting genitcal cutting and they just lay low when they publish a contradictory finding.

January 27, 2011 - 2:03pm
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Michele Blacksberg RN)

Comparisons to the Netherlands show circumcision does nothing for penile cancer. Of course penile cancer is very rare and the circumcision complication rate is higher then the penile cancer rate. It is a very foolish concept to cut off erogenous tissue for a child and take the related pleasure away for life with a vague hope to avoid a minor risk 80 years later. Studies throughout the US, Europe Aus and N.Z. show no reduction in STDs due to circumcision. The real reason HPV has been brought up so many times is it is a useful tool for doctors to use to intimidate mothers (who have been abandoning circumcision in the USA in droves) to have their sons mutilated. Hopefully, America's parents will see through the cynical greedy ploys of these "scientists", and end male genital mutilation once and for all.

January 27, 2011 - 7:06am
EmpowHER Guest

I'm not trying to be offensive here, I'm genuinely curious. If there were an African study proving a link between labiaplasty and lower HPV transmission rates to men (HPV is a risk factor in penile cancer), would you write an article about that? Do you think that it would it be morally right to do so? I'm guessing the answer is a resounding "no," and now I'll explain why I think the answer should be the same for the article you've just written.

No medical association in the world recommends recommends routine male circumcision. The Royal Dutch Medical Association goes even further, stating that "there are good reasons for a legal prohibition of non-therapeutic circumcision of male minors, as exists for female genital mutilation."[1]

Male circumcision causes many problems, not just for men, but for women as well. There are immediate risks caused by the surgery, such as hemorrhaging and infection, and also rare but severe complications such as an amputated penis, amputated glans, or even death[2] (117 boys die every year in the US as a result of unnecessary neonatal circumcisions[3]). Circumcision reduces sexual pleasure for men by removing the most sensitive external part of the penis[4], and it reduces sexual pleasure during intercourse for women by increasing loss of vaginal lubrication, and making painful intercourse more likely.[5]

I do not think it makes sense to put men at risk of all problems I've just listed for only a 28% reduction in HPV transmission rates to women, especially since there are other more effective prevention methods available, such as practicing safe sex, and, most importantly, getting the HPV vaccine. It's been mentioned that some parents are critical of the HPV vaccine due to possible side effects - I sincerely hope they give equal consideration to the possible side effects of circumcising their sons.

[1] "Circumcision: Medical Organization Official Policy Statements" - http://www.cirp.org/library/statements/

[2] "The Complications of Circumcision" - http://www.sexuallymutilatedchild.org/compl-rr.htm

[3] "Lost Boys: An Estimate of U.S. Circumcision-Related Infant Deaths" - http://www.faqs.org/periodicals/201004/2026622071.html

[4] "Fine-touch pressure thresholds in the adult penis" - http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1464-410X.2006.06685.x/full

[5] "Male Circumcision and Sexual Enjoyment of the Female Partner" - http://www.cirp.org/library/anatomy/ohara/

January 26, 2011 - 7:08pm
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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