Circumcision of male infants and children as a public health measure in developed countries: A critical assessment of recent evidence

Glob Public Health. 2018 May;13(5):626-641. doi: 10.1080/17441692.2016.1184292. Epub 2016 May 19.


In December of 2014, an anonymous working group under the United States' Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a draft of the first-ever federal recommendations regarding male circumcision. In accordance with the American Academy of Pediatrics' circumcision policy from 2012 - but in contrast to the more recent 2015 policy from the Canadian Paediatric Society as well as prior policies (still in force) from medical associations in Europe and Australasia - the CDC suggested that the benefits of the surgery outweigh the risks. In this article, we provide a brief scientific and conceptual analysis of the CDC's assessment of benefit versus risk, and argue that it deserves a closer look. Although we set aside the burgeoning bioethical debate surrounding the moral permissibility of performing non-therapeutic circumcisions on healthy minors, we argue that, from a scientific and medical perspective, current evidence suggests that such circumcision is not an appropriate public health measure for developed countries such as the United States.

Keywords: HIV prevention; Male circumcision; health policy; international public health.

MeSH terms

  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S.
  • Child
  • Circumcision, Male*
  • Developed Countries*
  • Health Policy
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Public Health*
  • Risk Assessment
  • United States