Circumcision and HPV

What Do We Know About HPV?

Human papillomavirus, HPV, is a deceiving virus. It is contracted through skin-to-skin contact and sexual intercourse is not necessary for an individual to become infected. It is deceiving because it doesn't always produce symptoms, so a person may be infected unknowingly. They may never have warts or any other symptom of HPV. Conversely, a person may have genital warts or another sign of the virus, yet not have the infection itself.

What we do know about HPV is that more than 40 percent of sexually active adults are infected with the virus and one percent of the younger population, ages 18 to 35 are infected with genital warts. Most of this has come as a result of sexual activity, although, as previously mentioned, sex is not the only way HPV is transmitted. Once the individual has been infected, the virus remains in the body for a lifetime.

STDs Are A Global Issue

Sexually transmitted diseases such as HPV, HIV and herpes are a global issue from which significant health problems arise everywhere in the world. HPV causes genital warts, cervical cancer, anal cancer and oral cancer. There are a wide variety of ways to address the HPV issue. Currently there is an injection which has been approved by the FDA to be given to girls as young as 11 and 12 years of age. It is being tested for use on women over the age of 30, but to date there is no confirmation of its viability for that age group. Proper use of condoms may or may not prevent the virus since skin around the vagina is exposed to potential risk.

Research Studies Discover Circumcision Helps Reduce STDs

Very recently an article was published in the New England Journal of Medicine which discusses the potential impact of male circumcision in the control worldwide of sexually transmitted diseases, especially HPV, HIV and herpes. Another, earlier report in the International Journal of Cancer corroborated this information. In the most recent study, more than 5,000 uncircumcised men in Uganda were enrolled in the study to determine how effective circumcision is in the reduction of both genital herpes and HPV.

The report in the New England Journal of Medicine revealed that circumcision reduced herpes risk by 25 percent and HPV by 35 percent. Previously, three independent studies showed that HIV risk was reduced 50 to 60 percent by male circumcision.

In other multi-national studies, which were done in countries around the world including Brazil, Mexico, Spain, the Philippines, Thailand, Denmark and the United States, the findings mirror each other. A study of 988 men in three countries, Brazil, Mexico and the US, the authors reported, "In this multi-national study where approximately 60 percent of study participants were un-circumcised, we found circumcision to be associated with a significantly reduced risk of...human papillomavirus."

Although circumcision may have a greater impact on the health of people in countries where the incidence of HIV is highest, there are benefits to be considered for men in any country of the world.