One benefit of circumcision is that it prevents or reduces urinary tract infections. Even though UTIs are uncommon in males, baby boys are at the greatest risk when they are under a year old. Although the risk of UTIs in the first year is low (even lower for breastfed babies), various studies suggest that UTIs may be as much as ten times more common in uncircumcised baby boys than in those who are circumcised. Approximately one in 1,000 boys that are circumcised has a UTI in his first year of life, compared to about one in 100 uncircumcised boys. UTIs can have serious consequences (especially during the first three months) that may require hospitalization, including kidney problems and infections.
Prevents or Reduces Risk of Penile Cancer Even though cancer of the penis is an extremely rare form of cancer in all men, circumcised or not, circumcision may offer some benefit (as a preventative measure) of lowering the risk in adult men. Uncircumcised men appear to be at an increased risk for developing penile cancer. Also, the risk cervical cancer in female sex partners of men that are circumcised may be reduced, although this has not been proven, as studies have mixed results.
Easier to Keep Clean Some people argue that it’s difficult for uncircumcised boys and men to maintain proper hygiene, while a circumcised penis is much easier to keep clean. However, an intact foreskin isn’t really an obstacle, because uncircumcised boys can learn how to pull the foreskin back and clean beneath it, once the foreskin becomes retractable. Until the foreskin retracts (generally around age 5), all you must do is wash the genital area with soap and water regularly. Proper hygiene is important, because poor hygiene can result in an infected, inflamed foreskin. A natural substance called “smegma” is more likely to accumulate when the foreskin is present. There is a debate as to whether smegma is beneficial or harmful, as some people describe the lack of smegma as a benefit of circumcision for men who neglect their hygiene. In contrast, others describe smegma as beneficial and necessary, serving as a protective coating, keeping urine from causing irritation to the glans in infants, especially if a wet diaper is left on too long. It is also said to have antibacterial properties and be useful in adulthood as a natural lubricant during intercourse.
Reduces Risk of Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) Some studies have shown that circumcision may offer an additional line of defense against STDs, such as syphilis, gonorrhea, herpes, human papillomavirus (HPV) and particularly human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). The results of the studies are difficult to interpret and the evidence is conflicting. Even if circumcision is proven to slightly lower the risk of acquiring an STD in the future, safe sexual practices (abstinence, fidelity and condoms) are more important and has more to do with preventing STDs than circumcision.
Prevents Penile Problems Performed properly, circumcision prevents certain problems, including a condition called phimosis in adult men, which only occurs in uncircumcised males. Phimosis is when the foreskin cannot be retracted (or is difficult to retract). All baby boys are born with this (called physiologic or congenital phimosis), but after the age of about 5, the foreskin should be easily retractable. Healthy adult men should not have phimosis and if they do, they may have an infection/inflammation of the foreskin (balanitis) or the head of the penis (balanoposthitis), penile carcinoma, or diabetes.
Possible Social Benefits Circumcisions are commonly performed in the United States because of personal preference. Many times, fathers don’t want to feel different from their sons. In addition, parents choose circumcision due to not wanting their son to be different from his peers or other family members, such as his brothers.