Nicholas Jones

Nicholas Jones is the New Zealand Herald’s education reporter.

Study calls for routine circumcision

A study shows that circumcision should be carried out on all newborn boys. Photo / Thinkstock
A study shows that circumcision should be carried out on all newborn boys. Photo / Thinkstock

Circumcision reduces the risk of infections, cancer and other painful conditions and should be routinely carried out on newborn boys, a study claims.

About 10 per cent of New Zealand's male babies are circumcised, but the Government pays for the procedure only for medical reasons, such as frequent infections.

But recent research by 12 medical experts, led by Sydney University professor of medicine Brian Morris, claimed evidence in favour of infant circumcision was overwhelming.

Their report showed that in uncircumcised infants, the risk of urinary tract infection and kidney inflammation was 10 times greater than those circumcised.

Later in life the uncircumcised had a higher risk of prostate and penile cancer, and for HIV and syphilis the risk was three to eight times greater.

But Dr Rosemary Marks, president of the NZ Paediatric Society, said while there were some "small benefits" to circumcision, they were not enough to warrant funding the procedure.

"I think that's a very long bow to draw ... compared to the other priorities that we have for health care, personally this would be very low on my list of priorities.

"I don't think this is something that should be offered routinely in the New Zealand public health system."

She said if circumcision was carried out it was crucial the person doing it was properly trained and the correct anaesthetic used.

People wanting a circumcision for religious or cultural reasons must pay about $1000 for a surgeon to perform it at a private hospital.

GPs, who charge around $300, can perform circumcisions.

After reviewing evidence on circumcision in 2010, the Royal Australasian College of Physicians declared "there is no medical indication for routine neonatal circumcision".

Auckland paediatric surgeon James Hamill said that was the consensus among paediatric surgeons.

Benefits of circumcision had to be viewed in context, he said. "We don't live in a desert, or in a country with a high rate of HIV, so in different cultural or geographical context it may be different."

But Professor Morris described the current view of Australasian health authorities towards circumcision as "blinkered ideology".

CUTTING TO THE QUICK

* A study shows that circumcision should be routinely carried out on newborn boys.

* 10 per cent of New Zealand's male babies are circumcised.

* The report shows that in uncircumcised infants, the risk of urinary tract infection and kidney inflammation was 10 times greater than those circumcised.

* The government pays for the procedure only for medical reasons.

- NZ Herald

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