Mamas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Uncuts?
Once relegated to discussions of radical prostatectomy as a treatment consideration, the phrase “to cut or not cut” now applies to circumcision and prostate cancer.
Proponents of circumcision have long cited reduced infection risk, including STDs, as just one of the benefits of abandoning a man’s foreskin. Some base their arguments on hygiene, aesthetics or just plain sexual satisfaction. Now that we are no longer brushing through jungles and the bush to hunt for food, and are instead adorned fashionably in our Calvin Klien and Jockey briefs, nature’s original protective function of the foreskin does seem a bit antiquated.
Researchers of prostate cancer increasingly suspect that undiagnosed and recurrent infections of the prostate—that are often asymptomatic–can cause inflammation in the prostate that initiates the early development of prostate cancer while young men are in their 20s and 30s. The foreskin, providing a warm and moist environment in which infectious organisms can collect and grow, may now actually be causing more harm in the form of increased cancer risk.
According to Monday’s New York Times, an article published by PCF-supported researcher, Dr. Janet Stanford, found evidence that circumcision may reduce the risk of prostate cancer. Stanford, one of the study’s authors and a member of the public health sciences division at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, conducted two studies. One study included over 1,700 men with prostate cancer, and the other, over 1,600 men without prostate cancer. Results suggest that the removal of the foreskin before a man’s first sexual experience may help protect against prostate disease and cancer.
However, these specific germs, or infections, have yet to be identified. Several past reports have indicated that unusual germs play a pivotal role in prostate cancer diagnosis, requiring further clinical studies and trials—specifically in young men. This public health concern may be an important element to further understand the role of circumcision in men, and ultimately, the role of infections resulting in cancer and other diseases.
I asked my boss Jonathan Simons, MD, president and CEO here at the Prostate Cancer Foundation to weigh in in the subject… ”We need research on hidden infections in young men that cause inflammation and may cause prostate cancer later in life,” said Dr. Simons. “The research conducted by Stanford and team strongly suggests that the microbiota, which is a fancy word for the hidden infections and germs that may be involved in causing prostate cancer, is not understood at the level it should be. Focusing on population research between men aged 20-30 years-old could help identify what germs are responsible for initiating early changes in the prostate that may cause prostate cancer.”
Perhaps parents should no longer worry about their sons growing up to be cowboys, but in the near-term consider the emerging data instead. There may indeed be much to learn from HPV as a cause of cervical cancer and, as with HPV, the potential for a similar vaccine for prostate cancer in the future.
If your read through the comments to this entry, you will see that there were many passionate responses from this who thought I was advocating mass circumsicion. Indeed, I was not. Here is my response those those who were concerned: