Many couples struggle with the challenges of infertility, and often the woman identifies herself as the source of the problem. But what if infertility stems from the man? Recent studies performed have indicated that male circumcision can help cure infertility in couples. So is it time to make an appointment and become circumcised? Maybe not just yet.
What was once much more commonly performed in male infants is now decreasing in popularity. Today, the procedure is performed mostly for “ritualistic and cultural reasons,” explains Dr. Turek. While the surgery is much simpler in infants, requiring only a clamp to secure the wound and overnight to heal the spot of the incision, doctors and scientists have found the only health benefit of circumcising males as infants is that it reduces the risk of urinary tract infections. (Admittedly, urinary tract infections in children can be more serious than when they occur in adults, capable of causing permanent kidney damage.) Thus, today, there are many more uncircumcised males than in the past, but they may benefit from having the surgery performed.
Does Circumcision Increase Fertility?
Scientists have recently concluded that circumcision can help with infertility in males suffering from two very specific diseases. The first, phimosis, is when the male is unable to retract the foreskin. The foreskin is too tight around the penis head and thus can lead to infertility. Most commonly, phimosis is found in patients that also suffer from diabetes. With the diagnosed cases of diabetes higher than ever before, it makes sense that phimosis is becoming more common in males. By circumcising the penis in the case of patients with phimosis, the foreskin is removed, eliminating the key factor contributing to infertility. The second possible disease where becoming circumcised can help infertility is in patients with balanitis. This disease is the inflammation of the glands in the penis. Men who suffer from balanitis have a penis that can become itchy, red and inflamed. If the head of the penis is always covered with foreskin, these ailments are difficult to remedy. However, when the skin covering the head of the penis is removed, these symptoms improve. Both phimosis and balanitis, known to cause infertility in their own right, can be cured by having the penis circumcised.
A Reduced Risk of STDs
If your infertility does not stem from balanitis or phimosis, is it still worth it to go through with being circumcised? There are several additional health benefits that are associated with the surgery. Having the foreskin removed can help prevent the spread of many viral STDs, such as HIV, HPV and herpes. HPV has been known to cause genital warts and cervical cancer. Scientists have created the theory that by having an intact foreskin on uncircumcised males, the extra skin acts as a type of reservoir collecting secretion. Because many viral STDs are transmitted through secretion, this reservoir traps the virus and can help lead to the spread of the disease. Additionally, because of the location of the foreskin on the penis, and ultimately the reservoir pool of the virus, the contact time another person may have with the virus is increased. When this contact time increases with a partner, the chance of spreading the disease increases as well. By removing the reservoir created by the foreskin, it is effectively removing both the accumulation of the virus, as well as limiting the contact time. This, in turn, decreases the likelihood that the disease will spread. Scientists have confirmed this theory through three government-sponsored trials that were conducted in three different locations. Astonishingly, scientists found that HIV infection rates decreased by about 60 percent in circumcised men compared to those that were not.
Lower the Risk of Cancer
While admittedly it is extremely rare, there is a form of penile cancer that is believed to be caused by human papillomavirus, or HPV. Because circumcising the penis reduces the transmission of the HPV virus, it is reasonable to believe that this will reduce the chance of penile cancer. When measured across a population of males, penile cancer is almost nonexistent in men who are circumcised. In addition, HPV is also linked to cervical cancer, and often women partners of circumcised males have a lower risk of cervical cancer.