| By Iris Krauz
CHICAGO - The American Academy of Pediatrics yesterday said
the medical benefits of circumcision are not sufficient to recommend
the procedure and for the first time said that pain relief should be
provided when the procedure is performed.
In response, the head of Israel's Pediatrics Association said the
American academy had not denied that circumcision may help prevent some
diseases. "It is known that the rate of cervical cancer among women is
lower when their partner is circumsized and it is also known that the
incidence of AIDS contagion is less among the circumsized, which was
not mentioned by the academy," said Dr. Emanual Katz, head of the
Israeli association. In addition, he said that babies in Jewish
circumcision ceremonies are often given wine to dull pain.
He said he is sure the Jewish circumcision ceremony would be able to
adapt to new knowledge if medical evidence indicated conclusively that
local anasthesia is desirable in the procedure.
The American pediatrics academy, the largest pediatricians' group in
America, published its new policy statement in the March issue of its
journal, Pediatrics, after a review of medical literature by a
seven-member task force.
Two frequently cited medical justifications for circumcision - the
prevention of urinary tract infections and penile cancer - are not
major problems, the report said. While uncircumcised males run a higher
incidence of urinary tract infections during the first year of life, it
said, the risk is still relatively low - around 1 percent overall. And
while penile cancer rates run three times higher in uncircumcised men,
the disease is rare - affecting only 10 or fewer men in a million
annually worldwide, it added.
"The academy does not recommend a policy of routine newborn
circumcision. We encourage parents to discuss the subject with their
pediatrician and make an informed choice," said Carole Lannon, a
physician at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, who headed
the task force. "With the benefit of additional medical research we
agree there are potential medical benefits but they are not
compelling," she said.
The Circumcision Resource Center in Boston estimates that about 60
percent of males in the U. S. are circumcised at birth, down from 85
percent in the late 1960s.