How circumcision before first sexual encounter might thwart prostate cancer
Cancer researchers say men who are circumcised before having sex for the first time might lower their chances of developing prostate cancer. Scientists, from Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center, surmised sexually transmitted diseases are a risk for prostate cancer because of inflammation that accompanies infection. The goal of the study was to find out if STD prevention from circumcision also lowers the risk of prostate cancer; something the researchers felt only made sense.
The finding, published early online in the journal Cancer, showed circumcised men were 15% less likely to develop cancer of the prostate if they had been circumcised prior to their first sexual encounter. The results applied to both aggressive and non-aggressive forms of the disease.
Jonathan L. Wright, MD, an affiliate investigator in the Hutchinson Center's Public Health Sciences Division, and his colleagues tested the idea by analyzing information from 3,399 men -1,754 had prostate cancer and 1,645 did not.
The results specifically showed circumcised men might lower their risk of aggressive cancer of the prostate by 18% and less aggressive disease by 12%.
There has been some controversy about whether or not circumcision should be mandatory. Studies show rates of HPV infection, which is a known risk for cancer are lower when the foreskin of the penis is removed; highlighted in a January 2011 study published in the Lancet.
Researchers for the current study suggest foreskin creates a moist, hospitable environment for pathogens. Inflammatory processes can change cell structure, leading to cancer, though other mechanisms might be involved.
According to Deborah Mitchell, who covered the Lancet story at EmaxHealth, "Other studies have already shown that male circumcision reduces the risk of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases such as herpes simplex virus-2, and genital ulcer disease in men, as well as trichomoniasis, bacterial vaginosis, and genital ulcer disease in female partners."
Researchers presented findings at the annual International AIDS Society Conference in Rome, July, 2011, that circumcision cuts HIV transmission up to 76%.
Wright says more studies are needed to completely understand how inflammation and STD's might be involved in risk of prostate cancer. The current observational finding that circumcision might reduce the chances of cancer of the prostate is also in line with a past study showing statins - cholesterol medications that also reduce inflammation - improve prostate cancer outcomes in men being treated for the disease.
"Circumcision and the risk of prostate cancer"
Jonathan L. Wright MD, MS et al.
March 12, 2012
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