New Study: Circumcision Rates Decline in U.S.

Fewer Americans are circumcising their infant boys, despite claims that the health benefits from the controversial practice outweigh the risks, according to a new Mayo Clinic Proceedings study, CBS News reported.

The study found that circumcision rates had fallen from 83 percent in 1960 to 77 percent in 2010.  Research suggested that varying access to health insurance was a factor in the decline with results showing that circumcision is 24 percent lower in states lacking Medicaid coverage for the poor.

The data also showed racial disparities among those who elect for their children to be circumcised driven primarily by access to procedure, cultural and educational factors.  Rates over the last year reached 91 percent in white men, 76 percent in black men and only 44 percent in Hispanic men.

More controversially, researchers said the benefits of the procedure still exceed the risks by 100 to 1, but fall short of recommending routine circumcision.  This is in line with a 2012 statement by the American Academy of Pediatrics in support of the practice.

"Infant circumcision should be regarded as equivalent to childhood vaccination," said Brian Morris, coauthor of the report.  "As such, it would be unethical not to routinely offer parents circumcision for their baby boy. Delay puts the child's health at risk and will usually mean it will never happen."

Clinical researchers found the decline worrisome on the basis that circumcision protects infants from a number of complications later in life such as urinary tract infections, which approximately 1 in 3 men will experience in an adult lifetime.  It also lowers the risk of HIV by 60 percent, genital herpes by 30 percent and cancer-causing strains of HPV by 35 percent.  Other studies claim circumcision in infancy lowers the risk of prostate cancer in adulthood by 15 percent.

Still, the practice has not been without debate in the United States.  Anti-circumcision groups have drawn parallels between male circumcision and female genital mutilation and say the procedure is a violation of human rights, and it is unethical to allow families to make that decision when a child cannot voluntarily consent.  Others claim that removing the foreskin decreases sensitivity and sensation during sexual activity.

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