Monthly Archives: April 2012

Circumcision and cancer of the penis in Australia

Circumcision is often quoted as being “a cure searching for a disease”. It was made popular in western societies in the Victorian period as a cure for masturbation, which was thought to be an evil that then caused all sorts of diseases.

Since then, pro-circumcision advocates have tried to find a disease that circumcision will ‘cure’ or prevent. One of the latest inventions is that somehow circumcision can prevent cancer of the penis.

The only person I’ve ever heard who contracted penile cancer was Al Pacino’s character Benjamin ‘Lefty’ Ruggiero from the Johnny Depp film ‘Donnie Brasco’. Apart from this, does anyone know anyone in Australia who has cancer of the penis? No? Well that is because it is extremely rare, accounting for less than 1% of all male cancers. And those cases occur in elderly men. Even if circumcision was a factor, would you amputate a healthy, functional part of your baby to try to reduce the risk of a cancer he has only a slight chance of getting late in life?

In any case, the medical world agrees that circumcision is unlikely to be a factor. The real world evidence shows that there is no difference in the rate of cancer of the penis between countries with relatively high circumcision rates (such as the USA) and low circumcision rates (such as Sweden). This is from the Cancer Council of Australia:

“In developed countries penile cancer is a relatively rare disease, with an incidence of approximately 1 in 100,000. The absence of randomised controlled trial evidence, combined with the rarity of penile cancer, suggests that circumcision is not justified for the sole purpose of protecting against penile cancer”

Read the full statement here.

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