Men who are cicumcised may reduce prostrate cancer risk

Katherine - posted on 03/12/2012 ( 13 moms have responded )

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Men who undergo circumcision may have a decreased risk of developing prostate cancer, according to a new study. The finding suggests that the removal of the foreskin before a man first has sex may help protect against the disease -- the most common cancer in men in the United States.



In the paper, published online Monday in the journal Cancer, researchers looked at data from more than 1,700 men with prostate cancer and more than 1,640 without, collected in two separate studies. The men answered questions about their family and medical history and sexual experience. They also indicated whether or not they had been circumcised and, if so, at what age.



Overall, the researchers found that men who had been circumcised before having sex for the first time had a 15 percent lower risk of developing prostate cancer.



"For a long time -- say, 20-plus years -- it has been recognized that certain factors related to sexual behaviors are also related to increased risk of prostate cancer," said Dr. Janet Stanford, a member of the public health sciences division at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and one of the study’s authors.



She explained that exposure to sexually transmitted infection may lead to infectious agents getting into the prostate and stimulating a chronic, inflammatory response. That response could create a hospitable environment for cancer cells. (Prostate cancer is caused by changes in the DNA of prostate cells.)



The study's authors write that "infection and inflammation in the prostate may be important mechanisms that enhance the risk of subsequent development in prostate cancer in some men."



They cite “growing evidence” that highlights the role sexually transmitted infections may play in cancer development, as well as data that suggest circumcision reduces the risk of developing STIs.



Thus the new study, they write, presents a "biologically plausible mechanism" for circumcision reducing the risk of prostate cancer.



"It's very innovative and thought-provoking, but this kind of epidemiological research -- how A affects B, and B affects C -- is very difficult to do and makes it very difficult to account for confounding variables," said Dr. Andrew Freedman, vice chair of pediatric surgical services at Cedars-Sinai Medical center and a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ task force on circumcision.



"This was a large study, and a large study will often find differences that are statically significant, but clinically un-important," said Dr. Robert Van Howe, a clinical professor in the department of pediatrics and human development at Michigan State University. In a 2007 letter to the editor of the British Journal of Urology, Van Howe -- who has been a vocal opponent of circumcision -- said the concept of using circumcision to reduce prostate cancer risk has no biological foundation.



In recent years, circumcision has become an increasingly contentious issue among medical professionals, parents and even lawmakers.



The American Academy of Pediatrics last issued guidelines in 1999, saying that existing evidence provides potential medical benefits to newborn male circumcision, but not enough to recommend it routinely. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's recommendations are still in development.



Recent CDC estimates found that circumcision has declined in the U.S. The rate of in-hospital procedures dropped from nearly 63 percent in 1999 to approximately 57 percent in 2008. It suggested that Medicaid coverage of circumcision may be one of the many factors influencing rates.



Despite this broader context, Stanford told The Huffington Post that she and her co-authors were most focused on attempting to understand how prostate cancer develops. She called it a very focused paper that may help get at the question of what role, if any, infection plays in prostate cancer development and also in how the underlying pathways and mechanisms may work.



The authors of the new study joined with outside experts in saying that the findings are preliminary and that further research is required.



"It's a great first shot across the bow," Freedman said. "But it's not really a game changer."

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/12...









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Kate CP - posted on 03/13/2012

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That's a tough choice.



Use a condom...or cut off the tip of the penis...hmmm...*mimics weighing the choices*



I'll go with condoms. :P

Jodi - posted on 03/13/2012

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"She explained that exposure to sexually transmitted infection may lead to infectious agents getting into the prostate and stimulating a chronic, inflammatory response. That response could create a hospitable environment for cancer cells."



And this is why I maintain that we teach our children safe sex. Because this has nothing to do with circumcision and everything to do with practising (or not) safe sex.

Isobel - posted on 03/13/2012

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well, if the study was done in the US, the vast majority of men would be circumcized, and the uncircumcized community would be a very small and specific one. I'm willing to bet dollars to donuts that this group would have other lifestyle similarities that contributed to the difference more than not having their foreskin removed.

Krista - posted on 03/13/2012

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Jodi makes an excellent point. Circumcised men can STILL be exposed to sexually transmitted diseases. The only way to completely prevent those is to use a condom.



It would be very interesting to see a cross-study of circumcised men who use condoms, circumcised men who do not, uncircumcised men who use condoms, and uncircumcised men who do not, and compare THEIR prostate cancer rates.

Jodi - posted on 03/13/2012

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I had a quick read of the media information on the Hutchison Research Centre's website, and to be quite honest, it was an observational study only, and it makes it quite clear that it *might* be a plausible cause, and only that further research of the relationship (read this as *correlation*) is warranted.

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Beth - posted on 03/13/2012

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I know a handful of men who have prostate cancer and/or prostate issues. And all of them are circumcised. This article doesn't say anything that makes me want to run out and have my son circumcised. I agree--let's teach safer sex practices. Because it sounds like that is the primary problem.

[deleted account]

i think the only reason this study "helps" the pro-circ side is because it is a misinterpretation of data. and condoms don't protect against all STDs, having your partner tested before sex or not having sex at all does. condoms help but are not a miracle preventative.

[deleted account]

now see, if boys would practice safe sex they wouldn't have to worry about prostate cancer since the risk is intensified by exposure to STDs.



seeing as how cancer is not a big issue in either side of the family, i still don't want my baby boy circumcised. if he wants to do it later he can but at least then he'd be able to use anesthetic. and we will definitely teach both our kids about safe sex. we practiced it, so should our kids.

Mother - posted on 03/13/2012

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What age group are we talking Krista?? Is it the teens and young adults or older married adults??



Maybe.....promiscuity outside marriage?

Mother - posted on 03/13/2012

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Excellent point. Condom use among adults is well below that of our teenage counterparts.....but perhaps that could be because many adult males are married??

Mother - posted on 03/13/2012

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Interesting article Kat. Kinda lends a hand to the pro-circ side of things doesn't it?!?!

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