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Circumcision found to reduce cervical cancer in partners

The Jerusalem Post, By Judy Siegel, April, 14 2002

(April 14) - For the first time, circumcision has been scientifically proven to significantly reduce the incidence of cervical cancer in men's sexual partners, according to yesterday's issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

A connection has been suspected for years - mostly because of the unusually low rate of cervical cancer among Israeli women, whose partners are almost always circumcised.

The study, carried out by the International Agency for Research on Cancer and led by Dr. Xavier Castellsagu, provides clear-cut proof of the benefits of circumcision to women partners.

Cervical cancer almost always results from infections in the woman of human papillomavirus (HPV). Men who suffer from penile HPV can infect their partners during sex. Abnormal cervical cells can be detected by a Pap smear and treated if discovered early.

Asked to comment, Prof. Tamar Peretz, director of the Sharett Institute of Oncology at Hadassah-University Hospital, Ein Kerem, in Jerusalem, said the study is important because there has been no proof until now of the link between circumcision - increasingly opposed in Europe and elsewhere because baby boys suffer pain and "have not been asked" for permission - and much-reduced risks of cervical cancer in their eventual partners. She said that apparently, HPV hides in the penile folds of skins of non-circumcised men and is passed on to their partners.

Researchers from the Nether-lands, Brazil, the Philippines, Thailand, Costa Rica, France, and Spain, pooled data on 1,913 couples from five countries enrolled in seven studies of cervical cancer. DNA tests were conducted to note the presence or absence of penile HPV, which was detected in 166 of the 847 uncircumcised men (19.6 percent) and in 16 of the 292 circumcised men (5.5%).

After adjusting for age at first intercourse, lifetime number of sexual partners and other potential confounders, circumcised men were found less likely than uncircumcised men to have HPV infection.

Monogamous women whose male partners had six or more sexual partners and were circumcised had a significantly lower risk of cervical cancer than women whose partners were uncircumcised.