Protecting Boys From Prostate Cancer

Prostate cancer development may be hindered by circumcision

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Circumcising male babies has been done for religious reasons for centuries. The practice has been consistent in the United States with the exception of a downturn in the 1970s.

New studies suggest the procedure may have additional medical benefits.

Circumcision before a man becomes sexually active appears to be related to reduced rates of prostate cancer. Those are the findings of a team of researchers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

"Talk to your pediatrician about the health benefits of circumcision."

Circumcision - removing the foreskin from the penis - is believed to discourage inflammation and infection that can lead to prostate cancer.

"These findings show that prior to first sexual activity circumcision is associated with a 15% reduction in the risk of prostate cancer relative to men who are not circumcised or who were circumcised after becoming sexually active," senior study author Janet L. Stanford, M.P.H., Ph.D. told dailyRx in an email.

"More research is needed, but these findings are consistent with the theory that infection/inflammation in the prostate may increase prostate cancer risk," said Stanford, who is a research professor and co-head of the Program in Prostate Cancer Research at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle Washington.

Research has shown that sexually transmitted infections could play a role in prostate cancer development due to the inflammation that they cause.  

Since circumcision can protect against certain sexually transmitted infections by eliminating the environment where infections can grow, researchers wanted to test if circumcision could be related to reduced rates of prostate cancer.

Jonathan L. Wright, M.D., an affiliate investigator in the Hutchinson Center's Public Health Sciences Division, led the research team.

Investigators examined and analyzed data from 3,399 men, including 1,754 men who had prostate cancer, and 1,645 men without the disease.

They found that men who had been circumcised before their first intercourse were 12 percent less likely to develop less aggressive prostate cancers than men who had not been circumcised, and also had an 18 percent reduced risk of having more aggressive prostate cancer. 

Stanford elaborates on the association between sexually transmitted infections and prostate cancer.

"For many years it has been recognized that certain aspects of sexual history (age at first intercourse, number of sexual partners) are associated with risk of prostate cancer. Studies have shown that self-reported STD(s) and some serum studies that measured prior exposure to specific STD agents, are associated with an increased risk of prostate cancer," she explained.

Stanford continued, "Thus, the current results follow this line of research in that circumcision, by reducing exposure to STD agents that lead to infection/inflammation in the prostate, is associated with a reduced risk of subsequent prostate cancer. 

Dr. Wright concludes, "Although observational only, these data suggest a biologically plausible mechanism through which circumcision may decrease the risk of prostate cancer. Future research of this relationship is warranted," he said.

This study was published early online in Cancer, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
March 12, 2012
Last Updated:
March 13, 2012