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Male circumcision is the removal of the foreskin from the human penis. In the most common procedure, the foreskin is opened, adhesions are removed, and the foreskin is separated from the glans. After that, a circumcision device may be placed and then the foreskin is cut off. Topical or locally injected anesthesia is sometimes used to reduce pain and physiologic stress. For adults and children, general anesthesia is an option and the procedure may be performed without a specialized circumcision device. The procedure is most often an elective surgery performed on babies and children for religious or cultural reasons. In other cases it may be done as a treatment for certain medical conditions or for preventative reasons. Medically it is a treatment option for problematic cases of phimosis, balanoposthitis that does not resolve with other treatments, and chronic urinary tract infections (UTIs).

The positions of the world's major medical organizations range from considering elective circumcision of babies and children as having no benefit and significant risks to having a modest health benefit that outweighs small risks. No major medical organization recommends either universal circumcision of all males or banning the procedure. Ethical and legal questions regarding informed consent and human rights have been raised over the circumcision of babies and children for non-medical reasons; for these reasons the procedure is controversial.

Male circumcision reduces the risk of HIV infection among heterosexual men in sub-Saharan Africa. Therefore, the WHO recommends considering circumcision as part of a comprehensive HIV prevention program in areas with high rates of HIV such as sub-Saharan Africa. Evidence for a health benefit against HIV for men who have sex with men is also strong. Likewise, the effectiveness of using circumcision to prevent HIV in the developed world is also unclear. Circumcision is associated with reduced rates of cancer causing forms of human papillomavirus (HPV), UTIs, and cancer of the penis. Prevention of those conditions is not a justification for routine circumcision of infants. Studies of other sexually transmitted infections are suggestive that circumcision is protective. A 2010 review found circumcisions performed by medical providers to have a typical complication rate of 1.5% for babies and 6% for older children, with few cases of severe complications. Bleeding, infection, and the removal of either too much or too little foreskin are the most common complications cited. Complication rates are higher when the procedure is performed by an inexperienced operator, in unsterile conditions, or in older children. Circumcision does not appear to have a negative impact on sexual function.

An estimated one-third of males worldwide are circumcised. The procedure is most common among Muslims and Jews (where it is near-universal for religious reasons), in the United States and parts of Southeast Asia and Africa. The origin of circumcision is not known with certainty; the oldest documented evidence for it comes from ancient Egypt. It is part of religious law in Judaism and is an established practice in Islam, Coptic Christianity, and the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. The word circumcision is from Latin circumcidere, meaning "to cut around".



The origination of male circumcision is not known with certainty. It has been variously proposed that it began as a religious sacrifice, as a rite of passage marking a boy's entrance into adulthood, as a form of sympathetic magic to ensure virility, as a means of suppressing or enhancing sexual pleasure, as an aid to hygiene where regular bathing was impractical, as a means of marking those of lower or higher social status, as a means of differentiating a circumcising group from their non-circumcising neighbors, as a means of discouraging masturbation or other socially proscribed sexual behaviors, to remove "excess" pleasure, to increase a man's attractiveness to women, as a symbolic castration, as a demonstration of one's ability to endure pain, or as a male counterpart to menstruation or the breaking of the hymen, or to copy the rare natural occurrence of a missing foreskin of an important leader and simple disgust of smegma. It has been suggested that the custom of circumcision gave advantages to tribes that practiced it and thus led to its spread regardless of whether the people understood this. It is possible that circumcision arose independently in different cultures for different reasons. Biblical circumcision was an expression that a man had chosen to live his life for God and could control his own body.


Male circumcision is the surgical removal of the foreskin (prepuce) from the human penis. The ethics of non-therapeutic circumcision being imposed on unconsenting minors (babies and children) has been a source of ongoing controversy.

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