Thursday, January 6, 2011

Snip, Snip?

Don't blame me so much for this one, blame Seattle Magazine, they're the ones who got me thinking about this.  In their most recent issue they have an article about male circumcision.  Amazon has over 900 references to circumcision.  Given the rabidly strong opinions about it, it's sheer stupidity perhaps to open up the can of worms.  But, as I thought about how to approach this controversial topic I also realized there are some equally deep-seated similar issues with another common male surgery - vasectomies.

There has been marginal scientific evidence that circumcision makes a difference health-wise.  The small health advantages to being circumcised that have been reported are decreased incidence of: 1) urinary tract infections in infant/toddler males; 2) contracting HIV/AIDS, HPV, or other STD's; and 3) cancer of the penis.  The numbers are not dramatic however, so the practice of circumcision remains more a decision based on religion, culture, and personal preference than medical factors.  These are deeply personal arenas and best left between doctor and patient, not with insurance companies or state laws.  Advocates of the uncircumcised side of the debate feel so strongly about their position that they are lobbying legislatures to make circumcising infants a crime based on the claim that the practice is abusive.  Given that it is done under anesthesia and has been accepted and performed for thousands of years the claim seems spacious.

There seems to be a larger issue at play though if one adds vasectomy into the considerations.  What I have observed is that men have a lot of anxiety about having medical procedures performed on their reproductive system -- be it on themselves or on their sons.

There are decent medical/health reasons to have both of these surgical procedures performed, and the risks from them are minimal.  Each person/parent needs to make up their own mind, but fear of pain should not be one of the reasons.

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