Circumcision Linked to Lower Risk for Prostate Cancer,
MONDAY, March 12 (HealthDay News) -- Men who have prostate
cancer are less likely to be circumcised, according to new
The researchers suggest a possible reason is that circumcision
reduces the risk of sexually transmitted diseases that may
contribute to prostate tumors.
The study doesn't confirm that circumcision directly lowers the
risk of prostate cancer, and the study lead author cautioned that
the findings shouldn't play a role in the decisions of parents
about the sometimes-controversial procedure.
Still, the results fit in with existing knowledge about how
cancer develops, said study author Dr. Jonathan Wright, a urologic
oncologist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center at the
University of Washington in Seattle.
"It helps us to understand how cancers develop and ultimately learn how to combat the disease," he said.
Circumcision is the removal of the foreskin that covers the
penis tip, and it is usually done shortly after birth. Opponents
say the procedure is unnecessary, painful and a disfigurement that
robs men of sexual sensation. But research in recent years has
suggested that circumcision reduces the risk of sexually
transmitted diseases like HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.
Scientists think circumcision does that by eliminating the ability
of germs to lurk under the foreskin.
Previous research by the study authors found no link between
circumcision and lower risk of prostate cancer. But the new study
is larger, Wright explained.
The researchers examined medical records and surveys of 1,754
men who were diagnosed with prostate cancer in the Seattle area and
1,645 similar men who were healthy.
Of those with prostate cancer, about 65 percent had been
circumcised before the first time they had intercourse, compared
with 69 percent of the healthy men.
Those with prostate cancer were still less likely to have been
circumcised after the researchers adjusted their statistics so they
wouldn't be thrown off by factors like high or low numbers of men
of certain incomes, education levels or race.
However, the study doesn't prove that circumcision has anything
to do with prostate cancer. Some other factor could explain this
difference between the men with prostate cancer and the healthy
ones, or it could be a statistical fluke.
But it makes sense that germs from sexually transmitted diseases
would find it easier to get into the body, and then into the
prostate, in the uncircumcised men, Wright said. It's possible that
"they set up shop in the prostate and turn on inflammation, and
then the inflammation leads to cancer development," he said.
Research has linked infections to some kinds of cancer, he
Brian Morris, a professor of molecular medical sciences at
Australia's University of Sydney who studies circumcision, praised
the study's design and said it "provides even more reason for
parents to opt for this 'surgical vaccine.'" Circumcision protects
baby boys from urinary infections that can damage their kidneys as
well as other diseases over their lifetimes, he said.
Natasha Larke, a lecturer in epidemiology and medical statistics
at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine who has
studied circumcision, said the study was well done, although there
were limitations. For one, the study didn't include all prostate
cancer patients in the Seattle region, she said. And even if a
possible effect of circumcision is confirmed, it appears to be
"modest," Larke added.
The study was published March 12 in the journal
While the study found an association between circumcision and
lower risk of prostate cancer, it did not prove a cause-and-effect
For more about
prostate cancer, try the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
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