Circumcision Does Not Dull Sensitivity: Study

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) April 29, 2003- Circumcised men appear to have the same degree of penis sensitivity as men who are uncircumcised, a new study suggests -- in a finding that will probably just add fuel to the fire of a controversial subject debated for years.

The findings are to be presented Tuesday by Dr. Arnold Melman at a meeting of the American Urological Society in Chicago.

"We demonstrated that there are no significant differences in penile sensation between circumcised and uncircumcised men in both patients with and without erectile dysfunction," said Melman in a prepared statement.

"This study does not address whether or not patients should be circumcised, however, it merely served to test sensitivity," added Melman, who is with Montefiore Medical Center in New York City.

The current policy of the American Academy of Pediatrics is that the potential medical benefits of male circumcision are not substantial enough to recommend that all boys become circumcised.

Around three-quarters of American-born men in the U.S. are circumcised, although that number appears to be declining rapidly in some regions of the country.

Male circumcision is common in North America and elsewhere for religious and cultural reasons and is known to help prevent urinary tract infections, sexually transmitted diseases and penile cancer, a rare condition. In the minor surgical operation, the foreskin is removed, which can help prevent bacteria from growing under the fold of skin.

On the other hand, many parents feel it inflicts unnecessary pain, and in many countries circumcision is rarely performed. In recent years, the issue has been highly controversial with vocal opponents to the procedure likening it to mutilation.

Still, few studies have aimed to investigate the differences in penile sensitivity, if any, between the two groups.

In the current investigation, Melman's team evaluated the penile sensitivity among 43 uncircumcised men and 36 circumcised men through a variety of methods, including vibration, pressure, spatial perception and warm and cold thermal thresholds. Both groups contained men with and without erectile dysfunction.

In uncircumcised men, the foreskin was pulled back during the sensitivity testing procedures.

The investigators found no statistically significant differences in sensitivity between the two groups of men, regardless of whether they had erectile dysfunction.

In other findings, the researchers found that white men were 25 times as likely and African-American men were eight times as likely as Hispanics to be circumcised.