Introduction: Circumcision of males is commonly carried out worldwide for reasons of health, medical need, esthetics, tradition, or religion. Whether circumcision impairs or improves male sexual function or pleasure is controversial.
Aims: The study aims to conduct a systematic review of the scientific literature.
Methods: A systematic review of published articles retrieved using keyword searches of the PubMed, EMBASE, and Cochrane databases was performed.
Main outcome measures: The main outcome measure is the assessment of findings in publications reporting original data relevant to the search terms and rating of quality of each study based on established criteria.
Results: Searches identified 2,675 publications describing the effects of male circumcision on aspects of male sexual function, sensitivity, sensation, or satisfaction. Of these, 36 met our inclusion criteria of containing original data. Those studies reported a total of 40,473 men, including 19,542 uncircumcised and 20,931 circumcised. Rated by the Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network grading system, 2 were 1++ (high quality randomized controlled trials) and 34 were case-control or cohort studies (11 high quality: 2++; 10 well-conducted: 2+; 13 low quality: 2-). The 1++, 2++, and 2+ studies uniformly found that circumcision had no overall adverse effect on penile sensitivity, sexual arousal, sexual sensation, erectile function, premature ejaculation, ejaculatory latency, orgasm difficulties, sexual satisfaction, pleasure, or pain during penetration. Support for these conclusions was provided by a meta-analysis. Impairment in one or more parameters was reported in 10 of the 13 studies rated as 2-. These lower-quality studies contained flaws in study design (11), selection of cases and/or controls (5), statistical analysis (4), and/or data interpretation (6); five had multiple problems.
Conclusion: The highest-quality studies suggest that medical male circumcision has no adverse effect on sexual function, sensitivity, sexual sensation, or satisfaction.
Keywords: Circumcision; Ejaculatory Latency; Erectile Function; Male Sexual Function and Pleasure; Penile Sensation; Penile Sensitivity; Premature Ejaculation; Sexual Satisfaction.
© 2013 International Society for Sexual Medicine.