Men's Health

Circumcision May Lower Risk for Prostate Cancer

In the continuing debate over the need for circumcision in infants, a new study reports that men who have prostate cancer are less likely to be circumcised.

Close-up photo of an older man in the garden

Earlier studies have already shown that circumcision lowers the risk for urinary tract infections, penile cancer, and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) like HIV, herpes simplex, and human papillomavirus.

Circumcision is the removal of the foreskin that covers the penis tip. The procedure is usually done shortly after birth, often for cultural or religious reasons. Some people have argued that circumcision isn't necessary, and moreover that it is painful and results in lowered sexual sensation.

Comparing groups

Researchers at the University of Washington in Seattle looked at the medical records and surveys of 1,754 men who had been diagnosed with prostate cancer and 1,645 men of similar ages and backgrounds who did not have cancer.

They found that men who were circumcised had a 15 percent lower risk for prostate cancer than men who were not circumcised.

The men with prostate cancer were less likely to have been circumcised even after the researchers adjusted their statistics so they wouldn't be thrown off by income, education level, or race.

Better understanding

The study, published in the journal Cancer, doesn't prove that circumcision prevents cancer. But study author Jonathan Wright, M.D., says that it helps explain why uncircumcised men are at greater risk for STDs. And once in the body, he says, the bacteria or viruses that cause these diseases could find their way to the prostate.

There, "they set up shop in the prostate and turn on inflammation, and then the inflammation leads to cancer development," Dr. Wright speculates.

Natasha Larke at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine gives the study high marks but says it had limitations. Even if the possible effect of circumcision is confirmed, she says, the effect appears to be modest.

Always talk with your health care provider to find out more information.

Online Resources

(Our Organization is not responsible for the content of Internet sites.)

American Academy of Pediatrics - Circumcision

American Cancer Society - What are the risk factors for prostate cancer?

National Cancer Institute - Symptoms of Prostate Cancer

May 2012

Who's at High Risk?

Some factors put you at high risk for prostate cancer. If you agree with either of these statements, you're at high risk, according to the American Cancer Society:

  • I'm African American. African American men are more at risk for getting prostate cancer than white men. You're especially at risk if your relatives are from sub-Saharan Africa.

  • My father, brother, or son had prostate cancer. These men are considered your first-degree relatives. The fact that they've had prostate cancer makes your risk higher. In some families, certain genetic mutations may increase the risk for prostate cancer.

    Other factors increase your risk for prostate cancer. Some are out of your control, such as your age or family history. However, some risk factors, such as the types of food you eat, are factors you can control. If you agree with either of these statements, you may be at increased risk for prostate cancer:

     

  • I am 55 or older. The older you get, the more at risk you are for getting prostate cancer. More than 90 percent of diagnoses are made in men ages 55 and older. The average age of diagnosis is 67.

  • I eat a lot of red meat and/or dairy products. Men who eat a lot of red meat or high-fat dairy products appear to have a slightly higher chance of getting prostate cancer. These men also tend to eat fewer fruits and vegetables. It's not clear which of these factors might be responsible for raising the risk.

Always talk with your health care provider to find out more information.

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