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Circumcision is the surgical removal of the foreskin, the tissue covering the head of the penis.

Most men in the UK are not circumcised and most of those that have been circumcised will have had the procedure performed for cultural and religious reasons rather than medical ones.

When is circumcision done?

Circumcision for religious reasons is usually carried out within some days of the boy being born.

How is circumcision done?

During a circumcision, the foreskin is freed from the head of the penis (glans), and the excess foreskin is clipped off. If done in the newborn period, the procedure takes about five to ten minutes. Adult circumcision takes about one hour. The circumcision generally heals in five to seven days.

Is circumcision necessary?

Circumcision is only carried out on the NHS in cases where it is medically necessary. It is usually performed as a last resort when other types of treatment have been unsuccessful.

What are the health benefits of circumcision?

There is some evidence that circumcision has health benefits, including:

  • A decreased risk of urinary tract infections.
  • A reduced risk of some sexually transmitted infections in men, such as HIV.
  • Reduced risk of penile cancer.
  • Prevention of balanitis (inflammation of the glans) and balanoposthitis (inflammation of the glans and foreskin).
  • Prevention of phimosis (the inability to retract the foreskin) and paraphimosis (the inability to return the foreskin to its original location).
  • Circumcision may reduce a man’s risk of developing prostate cancer, according to to some research but  further research is needed.


What are the risks of circumcision?

Like any surgical procedure, there are risks associated with circumcision. However, this risk is low. Problems associated with circumcision include:

  • Pain
  • Risk of bleeding and infection at the site of the circumcision
  • Irritation of the glans
  • Increased risk of meatitis (inflammation of the opening of the penis)
  • Risk of injury to the penis.


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WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on February 22, 2016

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