April 8, 2014 2:15 pm
Updated: April 8, 2014 4:39 pm

Should circumcision be mandatory? 2 studies say it’ll cut cancer risk

Hey, fellas. Science is giving you something to think about: Whether you’re snipped at birth or later on in life, two new studies suggest that men decrease their risk of developing prostate cancer if they’re circumcised.

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TORONTO – Hey, fellas. Science is giving you something to think about: Whether you’re snipped at birth or later on in life, two new studies suggest that men decrease their risk of developing prostate cancer if they’re circumcised.

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An Australian doctor says that circumcision should be treated the same way as childhood vaccination – a necessity. But University of Montreal research suggests that even men circumcised after 35 years old still cut their risk of cancer by 45 per cent compared to their counterparts.

The Montreal researchers say among Jewish and Muslim men, prostate cancer is rare and for a reason: the majority are circumcised.

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Scientists aren’t sure what it is about circumcision that protects men, but previous studies have hinted that the procedure reduces the risk of contracting STDs.

“Unlike the skin that covers our bodies, the inner surface of the foreskin is composed of mostly non-keratinized mucosal epithelium, which is more easily penetrated by microbes that cause infections,” according to study author Marie-Elise Parent.

Removing the foreskin could cut the risk of an infection linked to prostate cancer.

In her research, Parent and her colleague Andrea Spence interviewed 2,114 Montreal men. Half of them were diagnosed with prostate cancer between 2005 and 2009, while the others acted as a control. The researchers asked the men about their lifestyle, medical history and if they were circumcised and at what age.

Across the board, the men who were circumcised were 11 per cent less likely to develop a prostate cancer compared to those who weren’t. Men who were snipped as babies were 14 per cent less likely to encounter prostate cancer in their lifetime.

If it was done at a young age, the procedure even helped in the long-term against the most aggressive forms of cancer.

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It’s unclear what causes prostate cancer, but the researchers say certain risk factors are involved: aging and a family history of cancer.

Black men in the study reaped the most benefits from circumcision: the risk among the 178 black men who took part was 1.4 times higher than their counterparts. But of the 30 per cent who were circumcised, their risk of the onset of prostate cancer plummeted by 60 per cent.

The researchers say, in that case, that more research needs to be done to confirm these findings.

In the Australian study, Sydney University professor emeritus Brian Morris says that circumcision cuts the risk of urinary tract infections in childhood and STDs in adulthood.

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Morris is looking out for men: his research, contrary to what men have been led to believe, suggests that the procedure doesn’t affect sexual function, sensitivity or pleasure.

But Morris’ bottom line is that parents ought to circumcise sooner rather than later:

“The new findings now show that infant circumcision should be regarded as equivalent to childhood vaccination and that as such it would be unethical not to routinely offer parents circumcision for their baby boy,” he said.

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“Delay puts the child’s health at risk and will usually mean it will never happen.”

His full findings were published in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings last week.

carmen.chai@globalnews.ca

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