Male circumcision opposition supported by poor evidence, paper finds

13 September 2019
A review paper analysing claims made by male circumcision opponents has found counter-arguments tend to be supported by low-quality evidence, much of it spread via social media and the internet.

The first systematic review of claims made by male circumcision opponents has found that counter-arguments tended to be supported by low-quality evidence and opinion.

The study led by University of Sydney Emeritus Professor Brian Morris has been published in the Journal of Evidence-Based Medicine

In Australia, the circumcision of boys in early infancy was once common. However, over the years rates have declined to about 10 percent, says lead author, University of Sydney Emeritus Professor Brian Morris.

The researchers, from the University of Sydney's School of Medical Sciences and the University of Washington, as well as a scientist in Manchester, found modern media exacerbated misinformation: “in large part…  spread by circumcision opponents, much of it via social media and the internet”, says Emeritus Professor Morris.

“We found that claims by circumcision opponents often involved cherry-picking in an attempt to refute the high-quality scientific evidence that undermines their claims.

“When reviewing high-quality evidence, we found that male circumcision – especially when performed in early infancy – is favoured.”
The systematic review pointed to recent affirmative policy statements by major US health bodies that include the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which found that health benefits of neonatal male circumcision exceed risks by over 100 to 1.

The new paper also found that claims that male circumcision impairs sexual function and pleasure were contradicted by high-quality studies finding no adverse effect.

About the authors

Brian J. Morris, A.M., D.Sc., Ph.D., F.A.H.A., is Professor Emeritus at the University of Sydney in Sydney. Amongst his award-winning discoveries, he co-invented and patented use of PCR technology for HPV detection now used for primary cervical screening. Cervical cancer prevention led to his interest in male circumcision, with 107 of his 412 lifetime academic publications being on circumcision. He is a founding member of the Circumcision Academy of Australia.

Stephen Moreton, Ph.D., is a chemist who specialises in critically examining anti-circumcision claims. He edits and writes for

John N. Keiger, MD, is Professor of Urology in the Washington University Department of Medicine, Seattle, Washington, US.

Vivienne Reiner

Media and Public Relations Adviser (Health)

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