A review of the current state of the male circumcision literature

J Sex Med. 2014 Dec;11(12):2847-64. doi: 10.1111/jsm.12703. Epub 2014 Oct 6.


Introduction: Male circumcision is one of the most commonly performed surgical procedures worldwide and a subject that has been the center of considerable debate. Recently, the American Association of Pediatrics released a statement affirming that the medical benefits of neonatal circumcision outweigh the risks. At present, however, the majority of the literature on circumcision is based on research that is not necessarily applicable to North American populations, as it fails to take into account factors likely to influence the interpretability and applicability of the results.

Aims: The purpose of this review is to draw attention to the gaps within the circumcision literature that need to be addressed before significant changes to public policy regarding neonatal circumcision are made within North America.

Methods: A literature review of peer-reviewed journal articles was performed.

Main outcome measures: The main outcome measure was the state of circumcision research, especially with regard to new developments in the field, as it applies to North American populations.

Results: This review highlights considerable gaps within the current literature on circumcision. The emphasis is on factors that should be addressed in order to influence research in becoming more applicable to North American populations. Such gaps include a need for rigorous, empirically based methodologies to address questions about circumcision and sexual functioning, penile sensitivity, the effect of circumcision on men's sexual partners, and reasons for circumcision. Additional factors that should be addressed in future research include the effects of age at circumcision (with an emphasis on neonatal circumcision) and the need for objective research outcomes.

Conclusion: Further research is needed to inform policy makers, health-care professionals, and stakeholders (parents and individuals invested in this debate) with regard to the decision to perform routine circumcision on male neonates in North America.

Keywords: Circumcision; Neonates; North American Populations; Penile Sensitivity; Sexual Functioning.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Circumcision, Male / statistics & numerical data*
  • Circumcision, Male / trends*
  • Evidence-Based Medicine*
  • Guidelines as Topic
  • Humans
  • Infant Care / methods
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • North America / epidemiology
  • Pediatrics / standards
  • Penile Diseases / prevention & control
  • Penis / surgery
  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases / prevention & control
  • Urinary Tract Infections / prevention & control