15 March 2012
Circumcision in childhood appears to reduce the risk of prostate cancer in men by 15 per cent, according to US research sure to add to debate over the merit of the procedure.
The authors point to earlier research suggesting male circumcision can reduce the risk of contracting sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and HIV, and that "infection and inflammation in the prostate" may play a role in the cause of the cancer.
Their study took in 1700 men diagnosed with prostate cancer between 1993-1996 and 2002-2005, as well as a similar number of matched healthy controls who had not had prostate cancer.
More of the men in the control group (who had not had prostate cancer) were circumcised (71.5 per cent) compared with men in the group who had had prostate cancer (68.8 per cent).
Men circumcised before their sexual debut were seen to have a reduced risk of developing both more aggressive, and less aggressive, forms of prostate cancer.
Circumcision was performed after the date of first sexual intercourse for 3.9 per cent of the men with prostate cancer and 2.5 per cent of the controls.
There was no difference in the self-reported history of STIs between the two groups, though the authors noted that men might have had asymptomatic infections.
“We found a 15 per cent reduction in the relative risk of [prostate cancer] in men circumcised before their first sexual intercourse, suggesting a biologically plausible mechanism through which circumcision may decrease risk,” the authors said.
Infections were estimated to be the cause of 17 per cent of cancers worldwide, they said, and there was also growing evidence to support a role for STIs in the origin of prostate cancer.
Last Reviewed: 15 March 2012