Male circumcision involves the removal of the foreskin from the penis for medical or, more frequently, for religious or cultural reasons. It is estimated that one in three males are circumcised worldwide, most commonly in the US, Israel, the Muslim world, and parts of Southeast Asia and Africa. However, the procedure is much less common in Europe, Latin America and most of Asia and the US is the only developed country that practices routine circumcision on a majority of newborn boys for non-religious or medical reasons.


The benefits and risks of the procedure are controversial, with views ranging from it providing some benefits and few risks, to no benefit and significant risks. Studies suggest surgeries have a complication rate of between 1.5-6% for children depending on their age, with complications more likely as you age. Most complications are not considered to be severe, though in very rare cases it can result in deformities, loss of the penis, and even death. Evidence suggests one of the key medical benefits of circumcision is a reduced risk of HIV infection, at least among heterosexual men in sub-Saharan Africa. Other benefits include a possible reduction in other STI transmissions.


With regards to negatives, aside from the possible complications a prominent criticism is that the foreskin is one of the most sensitive areas of the penis and so its removal may result in permanent reduction in sensitivity, particularly during sex. Concerns have also been raised about the ethics of performing a potentially unnecessary cosmetic procedure on an infant when they could be able to make the decision for themselves upon reaching sexual maturity.



The most common reason a circumcision is performed for medical reasons is due to phimosis. Phimosis is a condition where the foreskin is too tight to be pulled back over the head of the penis. This can cause pain, skin splitting, or a lack of sensation during sex, and may lead to an increase in urinary tract infections or sexually transmitted infections. Hygiene may also be an issue if the foreskin cannot be retracted even when soft.


Phimosis is only an issue if it is causing difficulties, and using a condom and lubricants while having sex may resolve many of these. However, if it is causing you problems you should go to your doctor. They may prescribe topical steroids which can help to soften the foreskin and make it easier to retract. If other treatments have failed circumcision may be considered, but usually only as a last resort due to the inherent risks. It should also be noted that phimosis is perfectly normal in young children and parents should never try to force their child's foreskin back before it's ready as it may be painful and damage the foreskin.



As noted above, penis hygiene may be an issue for those with phimosis if they are not able to retract the foreskin at all. However, having a foreskin does not inherently result in a less hygienic penis and should not be used as a reason for circumcision. All men, circumcised or otherwise, should practice good penis hygiene. This involves gently washing your penis with warm water and a mild or non-perfumed soap (if you choose to use soap) each day while bathing or showering. If you have a foreskin, you should gently pull it back and wash beneath it (though parents are again reminded not to retract a young boys foreskins). If you have a foreskin, it should also be pulled back when urinating as this is both more hygienic and will give you a better aim. Men should avoid using talc and deodorants on their penis because it may cause irritation.