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To Circumcise or Not to Circumcise?

Male circumcision is defined as the surgical removal of the foreskin of the penis. The foreskin is the retractable roll of skin the covers the end of the penis (glans). There are many factors that influence a parent’s decision to circumcise their infant including the father’s circumcision status, opinions of family and friends, religious or cultural reasons, and the thought that a circumcised penis may be easier to clean. In Canada the rate of male infant circumcision has declined over the years with the current Canadian average of 32%.

Some common questions I often get asked from parents are: Is it medically necessary? What are the benefits? What are the risks? 

Is it medically necessary?

Circumcision is an optional procedure that is not typically medically indicated. In fact, the Canadian Paediatric Society does not recommend routine circumcision of every newborn boy.  They encourage parents to weigh the risks and benefits of the procedure with their health care provider.

What are the benefits?

Circumcision may reduce the risk of:

  • Urinary tract infection during childhood 
  • Some sexually transmitted infections such as HIV and HPV
  • Cancer of the penis (extremely rare form of cancer)
  • Easier hygiene
  • Foreskin retractable disorders (e.g. phimosis)

What are the risks?

To minimize the risk of poor outcomes during circumcision, it is recommended that an experienced practitioner complete the procedure. 

This post was co-authored by Stephanie Liu, MD, MSc, CCFP, BHSc and Erin Manchuk, BScPharm, BCGP.

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