Uncircumcised Penises Might Be Costing Us Billions

Illustration for article titled Uncircumcised Penises Might Be Costing Us Billions

Ever since people got all freaked out about cutting up babies' penises back in the '70s, the rate of male circumcision in America has steadily declined—dropping from 79% a few decades ago to our current 55%. And according to a new health study from Johns Hopkins University, all those intact ding-dongs flopping around our nation might constitute a significant drain on the health care system, costing at least $2 billion over the past 20 years.


Which makes sense—because you know what money is made out of, right? Yes. Foreskins.

Wait. No.

It's because, say the pro-circumcision folks, the folds and crevices of the uncircumcised penis are like a warm, moist Habitrail for pesky bacteria and viruses, putting men (and their partners) at greater risk of sexually transmitted infections. But is decreasing one's risk of disease (not a guarantee, just a risk, BTW) really worth traumatizing baby boys and stigmatizing uncircumcised men? But is circumcision even traumatic at all? Has anyone asked a baby? This is the eternal circumcision debate.

Personally, I don't give a care what kind of a penis any grown man currently has, because I am not in the business of telling people what to do with their genitals, or judging whether anyone's genitals are "right" or "wrong." That said, if I had a boy-baby, I think I would probably circumcise him (not, like, with my bare hands, but you know), because I can't imagine one unremembered trauma could be more painful than a lifetime of a nasty, unfair, pervasive stigma. But that's just me.

And here's where the Johns Hopkins researchers came down:

Research has found that circumcision reduces the number of infant urinary tract infections. Men who are uncircumcised are more at-risk for cancer-causing HPV, HIV, herpes, bacterial vaginitis and other sexually transmitted diseases, studies have found.

The Hopkins researchers, who published their results online in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, say the cost to treat these long-term health problems is putting extra financial strain on the medical system. The majority of the costs are in the treatment of HIV, the study found.

...The researchers said that if male circumcision rates dropped to those in Europe, where 10 percent of male babies get the procedure, there would be a 12 percent increase in men infected with HIV and 29 percent in those who contract HPV.

A European rate of circumcision in the United States could add $4.4 billion in avoidable medical costs in the next decade, the Hopkins study found.

And the counterpoint:

"People forget it is a child's penis you are operating on."

Okey dokey. I'm going to just back away and let you guys take this one.

Image via Ruslan Grumble/Shutterstock.


Lindy West

Hey, screaming people. First of all, male circumcision and female genital mutilation are not equivalent. Not that it matters, because all I did here was INFORM YOU OF THIS STUDY, describe both sides of the argument, express some sympathy for adult men oppressed by this shitty stigma (which I do not personally hold, BTW), and then muse on my half-formed thoughts about my own future-child who might never even exist. This is not advocacy journalism. Take a breath.