Health Female Adda
10 months ago
Can circumcision lower the risk of penile cancer?

Penile cancer is one of the rarest types of cancer seen in men with a global incidence of less than one case in 1, 00,000 person-years. It represents approximately 0.5 percent of all cancers among men in the developed countries. But what it lacks in prevalence, it makes up for in danger and disfigurement. Squamous cell carcinoma of the penis or penile cancer leads to genital disfigurement, causing a great deal of physical inconvenience and emotional duress. That’s because penile cancer may impair basic bodily functions like urination and penetrative sex.

The major risk factors for penile cancer are Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection and phimosis, a physical condition in which the foreskin becomes too tight to be pulled back over the head of the penis. Although it is a rare kind of cancer, the mortality rate associated with the disease is very high. Even after the person has survived the disease, his quality of life gets greatly reduced due to the genital disfigurement caused by penile cancer. That’s why measures have to be taken to prevent the disease rather than cure it.

Why circumcision?
Male circumcision involves the removal of the foreskin from the human penis. It may be performed for medical as well as religious or cultural reasons. The practice is common in Islamic and Judaist communities, where young boys undergo circumcision to mark their initiation into the religion. But at the heart of what is considered a religious custom is a practice that has many health benefits. Male circumcision improves hygiene, reduces the risk of HIV and other sexually-transmitted diseases, prevents UTIs, and even improves sexual function and satisfaction. Does male circumcision reduce the risk of HIV?

Does circumcision reduce penile cancer risk?
It was long hypothesised that circumcision could even reduce the risk of penile cancer. So in 2011, researchers reviewed the existing body of evidence that showed an association between male circumcision and penile cancer. The review went over eight papers which evaluated the association between penile cancer and circumcision.

The study said that circumcision in childhood or adolescence was protective against penile cancer but some evidence also said that risk of penile cancer was high among men who were circumcised as adults. The study also found that circumcision worked against invasive penile cancer where the malignant cells have the potential to spread to other parts of the body. But there wasn’t any evidence to prove that circumcision reduced the risk of in situ penile cancer, where the cancer cells haven’t spread.

Phimosis is one of the strongest risk factors for penile cancer. The study found out that carrying out circumcision in childhood and adolescence as a measure against phimosis has a positive effect on invasive penile cancer.
The review found that the risk of invasive penile cancer was greater among circumcised adults. One possible reason could be that circumcision in these adults was performed as a treatment for penile cancer, a cancer precursor or to treat a health problem that could be a risk factor for penile cancer, such as phimosis or inflamed foreskin.

So does circumcision really work against cancer? The data suggest that circumcision protects against invasive penile cancer if it is performed during childhood or adolescence. That’s because circumcision fixes phimosis, a major risk factor for penile cancer. It’s postulated that along with HIV prevention, circumcision could also serve to reduce penile cancers.


Larke, N. L., Thomas, S. L., dos Santos Silva, I., & Weiss, H. A. (2011). Male circumcision and penile cancer: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Cancer Causes & Control, 22(8), 1097—1110.

Image source: Shutterstock

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