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Study: Declining circumcision rates could lead to increase in health care costs, disease

Published: Thursday, Aug. 23 2012 9:07 p.m. MDT

He said that while he believes there are many medical advantages to circumcision, he most enjoys "bringing a child into that relationship with God. It is a privilege, really."

Smurthwaite, who also lives in Colorado, said even though her LDS faith does not require circumcision as a commandment, she felt it reminded her of something more meaningful.

"The religious view helped me to remember that it was something God asked at one time, and therefore, at least for me, I thought of it not as something that was abusive or horrific — because I can't see God requiring something that is inhumane for his children, in their desire to covenant with him," she said.

For both her sons, and others in her extended family, a mohel was invited to perform the circumcision. Smurthwaite said the procedure was done at her home and was accomplished more quickly than the traditional hospital method and with less obvious pain and suffering to her baby boys.

Levy said that the method used by mohels employs the Mogen clamp or shield. The ritual causes some bleeding, but he said it is well-controlled.

In a report published Monday in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine journal, experts with Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine claim that with fewer circumcisions comes a higher incidence of sexually transmitted infections, including human papilloma virus and HIV, and related cancers in men and their female partners.

An increase in such conditions has the potential to add more than $4 billion in "avoidable health care costs" if circumcision rates continue to drop, the research states.

"Our economic evidence is backing up what our medical evidence has already shown to be perfectly clear," Dr. Aaron Tobian, a health epidemiologist and co-author of the Johns Hopkins study, said in a written statement. "There are health benefits to infant male circumcision in guarding against illness and disease, and declining male circumcision rates come at a severe price, not just in human suffering, but in billions of health care dollars as well."

But a growing number of families are choosing not to have it done.

Certified nurse midwife Rebecca McInnis, at the Birth Center in Murray, said most of her clients will choose to immunize and administer vitamin K for added infant health, but the majority will not have their sons circumcised.

"Studies don't support it as a useful surgery," she said.

Becca Bingham, of Clinton, watched one of her young sons go through it.

"I just assumed everybody had it done and had I had my babies myself, I would have checked the box to have it done. There would've been no question, just for tradition, I guess," she said. Bingham is an adoptive mother of four children, two of whom are boys.

Neither of her sons had been circumcised when they arrived under her care and doctors told them one was likely too old to have it done comfortably, yet the youngest would stand to benefit medically from circumcision.

The procedure, Bingham said, was "traumatic" for the 4-month-old and ended up changing her mind on circumcision altogether.

"You're basically choosing a cosmetic surgery for your kids because of tradition," she said, adding that there has been little difference between the associated anatomy of her two sons.

"Knowing what I know now, I would not have done it," Bingham said. "Unless it was deemed medically necessary."

Non-circumcised males, according to Johns Hopkins' research, could potentially contribute to an increased rate of various diseases.

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