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Curbing Circumcision Boosts STDs, Study Contends
Date:8/21/2012

By Amanda Gardner
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, Aug. 20 (HealthDay News) -- A dramatic decline in the number of circumcisions of boys born in the United States may lead to a surge in the rate of sexually transmitted diseases, a new study contends.

The cost of those infections could top $4.4 billion over the course of a decade, according to a study published Aug. 20 in Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

Rates of male circumcision -- the surgical removal of foreskin from a penis -- have plummeted from 79 percent in the 1970s and 1980s to about 55 percent in 2010, according to the study.

One reason for the decline is that more states (18 to date) refuse to cover the procedure under their Medicaid programs, said Arleen Leibowitz, author of an accompanying journal editorial and a professor of public policy at University of California, Los Angeles, Luskin School of Public Affairs.

In addition to cost-cutting measures, opposition to neonatal male circumcision on moral or ethical grounds likely accounts for part of the decrease, Leibowitz added. Some people believe clipping an infant's penile foreskin is a form of mutilation.

Study senior author Dr. Aaron Tobian said evidence supporting the medical benefits of male circumcision continues to mount. Included are declines in HIV, genital herpes and penile and cervical cancers, which are caused by sexually transmitted human papillomavirus (HPV).

"States that are trying to look for cost savings should also look at this study and see in the long term that eliminating male circumcision coverage is not advantageous," said Tobian, ab assistant professor of pathology, medicine and epidemiology at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore.

Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), including HIV and HPV, already cost the United States $17 billion each year in direct medical costs alone, the study au
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