Are Circumcision Rates Falling?

Circumcision rates are falling.

A previously posted article on circumcision rates seems to have stirred up a bit of a controversy, so I thought I would revisit it here.

What is in question is if newborn circumcision rates in the U.S. fell to 33% in 2009 or not. There is evidence that hospital circumcisions of newborns did indeed fall that low. The original study that claimed 33% was presented in Vienna http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/809763. Here is a slide from that presentation: http://www.flickr.com/photos/intactivist/5323491644/

The CDC has stated that this study was used to track complication rates and not to track circumcision rates. Fair enough.

Exactly how much circumcision rates have fallen in the U.S. may be a topic of debate. What it not in question is that rates are, in fact, falling.  They are falling faster in some areas than others and though the rates in any given year may fluctuate up or down, the overall picture from 1979 to 2010 is a decline. http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/hestat/circumcision_2013/circumcision_2013.htm#fig1

The important point is, rates are falling, as they should be.  More and more parents are educating themselves on this unnecessary cosmetic procedure and declining circumcision.

What are the risks and benefits to circumcision? Why does anyone choose to circumcise their child? First, you have to understand that this is a cultural issue. For some, it is a religious issue, but for many Americans, it’s just what we’ve always done and they look no further than that.

To get an idea of how cultural ideas about circumcision change, consider the history of female circumcision: http://www.mtholyoke.edu/~mcbri20s/classweb/worldpolitics/page1.html

When we think of female circumcision (aka female genital mutilation) we react with horror and disbelief that anyone could do such a thing to a child they claim to love. However, when the belief is deeply embedded in the culture, they do it precisely because they love that child. They truly believe that she will be unclean, unable to attract a husband etc. And it’s what they have always done. I would like to think that in a modern country like America we can rise about the “but it’s always been that way” mentality and take an objective look at the facts.

Consider also, rates in other countries: http://www.photius.com/rankings/circumcised_men_country_ranks.html

Male circumcision is by no means a universal practice and there are more men worldwide that are intact than have been cut yet no epidemic of penile health problems associated with these populations. So again, why have your child circumcised?

One reason circumcision became so prevalent was to prevent masturbation (that seems a little extreme): http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ali-a-rizvi/male-circumcision-and-the_b_249728.html

One reason for the fluctuation in rates may be the AAP, which has revised their official position back and forth several times over the last few decades. Their current position is supportive of the practice: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/130/3/585

However, the rest of the worldwide medical community disagrees and a report in their own publication calls the policy out for reflecting cultural bias: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2013/03/12/peds.2012-2896

Each parent must educate themselves on the risks and benefits and make an informed decision for their child.

2 thoughts on “Are Circumcision Rates Falling?”

  1. The AAP’s 2012 position was that parents are entitled to reshape a son’s penis if they desire, for any reason, and if this reshaping costs money, Medicaid and private health insurance should cover the cost. They explicitly did not endorse RIC. This is a very very curious policy, which I see as the American medical profession enabling body shaming and bigotry directed at the male foreskin.

    Forget cultural bias. The fundamental problem with the AAP’s stance is that there is no research on the possible correlation between circumcision status and adult sexual dysfunction. Hence the long term risks of RIC are unknown. As unknown risks cannot be compared to allegedly known benefits, the AAP’s stance is nonsense.

    If circumcision protects people from STDs, STDs would be more of a problem in Europe and Japan than in the USA. The contrary is the case.

    The 32.9% rate is from a study that the CDC never released. That study was based on an insurance industry dataset that has never been analysed before. The only reliable data are from the National Hospital Discharge Survey, as processed by HHS. No data counts RICs performed on outpatients in doctors’ offices, a practice whose popularity has risen this century.

    The overall hospital circumcision rate has not fallen dramatically in recent years. There is a great variation by state. West of the Rockies, RIC has become a minority choice, with Nevada being the national low at 11%. Michigan, Kentucky and West Virginia have the highest rates, all a bit over 85%. No one knows the reasons for this dramatic cross-sectional heterogeneity.

    American baby boys are circumcised, because seeing foreskin every time they change a diaper or give a bath, takes the parents outside of their comfort zone. Parents fear that cut boys bully intact boys in the locker room and in summer camp. They fear that American women refuse to have sex with intact men, because who wants to sleep with a Weird Dick? The weirdest myth of all is the belief that intact men never experience fellatio, and that it is every male’s God given right to have fellatio. Parents are essentially projecting their prejudices and insecurities on the boys and women of the future. To which I say: who can possibly know what kind of penis, if any, the typical American young woman will prefer 20-30 years in the future??

    Intact is growing more common among American boys, because women of childbearing age are growing more aware and more comfortable with What Nature Intended.

    1. Not to mention that when erect, you cannot tell a cut penis from an intact one in the first place.

      Thank you so much for you comments. You are obviously very well educated on the subject.

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