Why Do People Circumsize Their Sons?

By Sharon Perkins
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Around 20 percent of all men in the world have undergone circumcision -- the removal of the foreskin from the male penis -- Netdoctor reports. Between 56 and 59 percent of baby boys were circumcised in the United States in 2010, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Although the 2012 American Academy of Pediatrics position statement on circumcision states that the benefits of the procedures outweigh the disadvantages, much debate continues among medical personnel on the pros and cons. Parents decide to circumcise for many reasons, some medically based, others not.

Religious Reasons

Many parents choose circumcision for religious reasons. In Judaism, circumcision is a mandatory sign of the covenant between man and God, but many Muslims also circumcise. Some Muslims consider circumcision mandatory, while others consider it a strong recommendation for health and cleanliness benefits. Christianity and other world religions don't require men to be circumcised.


Parents often choose circumcision to prevent or reduce the risk of certain medical problems in their sons later in life. Circumcision may reduce the risks of penile cancer, some sexually transmitted diseases, including human immunodeficiency virus, syphilis and herpes simplex and urinary tract infections in men. Risks aren't completely clear-cut, however; circumcised men have a higher incidence of penile warts, which can also increase the risk for penile cancer, Netdoctor reports. Circumcised men also have a higher risk of gonorrhea and non-gonococcal urethritis. Women who have sex with circumcised men also have a lower risk of developing cervical cancer.

Medical Problems

Parents might decide to have their sons circumcised in childhood or at a time other than infancy due to medical problems with the foreskin. Phimposis is a narrowing of the foreskin, which prevents retraction. Between 1 and 1.5 percent of boys develop this condition before age 17, according to Netdoctor. Balanoposthitis, a redness and swelling of the foreskin, affects between 3 and 10 percent of boys and can be an early sign of diabetes, the Netdoctor website reports. Severe cases can require circumcision. In paraphimosis, the foreskin is retracted past the ridge of the head of the penis; if the foreskin remains tight, the doctor might recommend circumcision.

Comfort Level

Parents might decide to circumcise a baby boy because dad is also circumcised. Around 90 percent of circumcised dads decide to have their sons undergo the procedure, according to a 2012 article in " The Jewish Daily Forward." The part of the country where you live and what your friends do can also influence a parent's decision on whether or not to make the cut. In 2009, 87 percent of baby boys in West Virginia were circumcised while only 12 percent of boys in Nevada underwent the surgery. In contrast, only around 10 percent of Europeans circumcise their sons, "The Jewish Daily Forward" reports. More Caucasian and African-American than Hispanics have sons circumcised.

About the Author

A registered nurse with more than 25 years of experience in oncology, labor/delivery, neonatal intensive care, infertility and ophthalmology, Sharon Perkins has also coauthored and edited numerous health books for the Wiley "Dummies" series. Perkins also has extensive experience working in home health with medically fragile pediatric patients.