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October 1983

The Value of Neonatal Circumcision: An Unanswered and Perhaps Unanswerable Question

Author Affiliations

Department of Pediatrics Arizona Health Sciences Center 1501 N Campbell Ave Tucson, AZ 85724

Am J Dis Child. 1983;137(10):939-940. doi:10.1001/archpedi.1983.02140360003001

For almost two decades, there has been an ongoing dispute among physicians, particularly pediatricians, as to the justification for neonatal circumcision, especially on a "routine" basis. Neonatologists have regarded the operation as without merit.1 Physicians in all fields agree on the necessity for careful explanation to the parents, preferably before the infant is born. They deplore the occasional grave complications that are largely produced by poor technique and inexperienced operators. One major reason formerly used to justify neonatal circumcision—correction or prevention of phimosis—has been shown to be untenable by serial studies from birth to adulthood.

The major indications now proposed as justifying the procedure are prevention of penile cancer and balanitis and a reduction in herpes genitalis and, possibly, cancer of the uterine cervix. These diseases are decades removed from the neonatal period, and opponents of circumcision regard them as lacking incontrovertible proof or as inconsequential. They say that

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