CDC should not recommend infant male circumcision

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is expected to make a formal recommendation that all infant males in the U.S. undergo circumcision, a surgical procedure that removes the foreskin of the penis.

This comes in light of studies in South Africa, Kenya and Uganda suggesting circumcised men are less likely to become infected with HIV. Infant male circumcision is common throughout the world, with religion and culture serving as a major reason. The World Health Organization estimates that 30 percent of the world’s males are circumcised, with two-thirds of them Muslim.

According to the National Center for Health Statistics, about 56 percent of American males underwent circumcision in 2006, though 85 percent were circumcised in 1965.

Most U.S. medical organizations, like the American Medical Association (AMA) and the American Academy of Pediatrics, do not recommend newborn circumcision, and the African studies don’t seem to be persuading them.

The CDC should not recommend neonatal male circumcision for the same reasons that female circumcision is rejected. It irreversibly violates a person’s sovereignty over his or her own body with dubious benefits.

The African studies’ findings may not be applicable to the U.S. CDC researchers reported in the latest issue of AIDS that circumcision makes no difference in HIV transmission among gay men in Western countries.

Circumcision proponents say personal hygiene is easier with circumcision and that uncircumcised penises need to be washed, but this is important whether someone is circumcised or not. Other circumcision supporters claim the procedure decreases the risk of penile cancer, though the disease is very rare.

A potential risk factor of circumcision on U.S. infants is methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), according to a study by the CDC. Other AMA-reported complications include sepsis, skin bridge formation, scalded skin syndrome and partial penile amputation.

It’s not right for the CDC to impose suggestions based on studies in other countries. Males should make their own decisions when it comes to circumcision so they can avoid cultural bias.

There is inadequate data right now about males circumcised as adults, but physiological studies indicate circumcision causes diminished function, including the loss of nerve endings affecting sexual activity, according to a study published in the British Journal of Urology International.

By definition, circumcision of either sex is tantamount to mutilation because it involves permanent removal of body parts. While people have a right to their own religious customs, every individual also has a right to his or her own body. An unbiased medical institution should not recommend neonatal male circumcision to American parents.

Neil Manimala is a junior majoring in biomedical sciences.