A study published recently finds that infant boys who are uncircumcised have an increased risk of urinary tract infection, regardless of whether their foreskin is “tight” or not. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), an uncircumcised boy has about a 1 in 100 chance of developing a UTI in his first year of life. The risk for a circumcised boy is 1 in 1,000. The uncircumcised boys’ absolute risk is still low, noted Dr. Alexander Sasha Dubrovsky, the lead author in the study.
Dr. Dubrovsky’s team studied 393 infant boys who were sent to their hospital’s ER for UTI testing. Of the 393 babies, 309 were uncircumcised, which is what researchers expected since being uncircumcised is a known risk factor for infant UTIs.
But among the uncircumcised babies, there was no evidence that foreskin “tightness” mattered in their risk for infection. They had a higher UTI risk regardless of whether the urethral opening was clearly visible or hard to see.
In babies, UTIs are tough to recognize because they typically cause only vague symptoms similar to colds or other common childhood ailments. Circumcision is one of the factors considered in deciding whether or not to test baby boys for a UTI. Their suspicion of a UTI is higher when a boy is uncircumcised. And based on the current findings from the study, that shouldn’t change, the researchers say.
UTIs are usually not serious infections and can easily be treated with antibiotics. But untreated infections could scar the kidneys. Besides the lower risk of UTI in infancy, circumcised boys may also have a slightly lower risk of sexually transmitted infections (STI), including HIV, later in life. They also seem to have a lower risk of penile cancer, a rare form of cancer.
“Our study doesn’t answer any questions on the potential benefits of routine circumcision,” Dr. Dubrovsky said. He suggests that parents talk with their doctors about the pros and cons of circumcision, then decide for themselves. He also stressed that the study was not set up to inform the debate over circumcision.
SOURCE: Canadian Medical Association Journal, July 2012