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.