Monday, March 12, 2012

Latest Pro-Circumcision Canard: "Circumcision Prevents Prostate Cancer"

Could it be that the circumcision/HIV bandwagon is losing steam, and circumcision advocates are, yet again, hunting for another "correlation" between circumcision and some feared disease?

This shouldn't be too surprising; "researchers" have been trying to vindicate this primarily cultural practice for close to two centuries.

In 2006, the WHO used some very dubious "research" to endorse circumcision as prevention method to prevent HIV. Circumcision advocates have tried to hail this as circumcision's "ultimate vindication," though they may have done this a little too soon. (As it is usually the case...)

But now, perhaps noting that not very many people are buying it, "scientists" and "researchers" are looking to "correlate" circumcision with the reduction of other diseases.

I've already written about Brian Morris who has tried to claim that circumcision "reduces the risk of prostate cancer," among other things.

Now, it seems, other "researchers" have taken his lead and are seeking to produce the "correlation," and, as is usually the case, news outlets are already touting the "link" between circumcision and "prostate cancer prevention" as matter of fact.

The MSNBC headline reads: "Circumcision linked to lower prostate cancer risk." According to "researcher" Jonathan Wright, "These data suggest a biologically plausible mechanism through which circumcision may decrease the risk of prostate cancer," but it fails to actually produce it, doesn't it. What's more important is the "suggestion" that media outlets like MSNBC could take and run with.

Not surprisingly, MSNBC quotes Morris in this article. They too seem to be unaware that he is no expert on circumcision, but merely an enthusiastic circumcision fanatic of long standing. He neither holds degrees (nor genuine interests) in surgery, urology, pediatrics, nor epidemiology, and his field of study (Morris is a molecular biologist and professor of molecular medical sciences) is only remotely related to medicine. He is in no way an authority on circumcision, much less male genitalia, child care, nor disease prevention. Why MSNBC author Joseph Brownstein didn't bother to investigate this man's credentials is beyond me. It seems any quack with a white coat can pass as an "expert nowadays.

Reuters' is a bit more informative, conveying that "The new work jibes with those findings, but it falls short of actually proving that removing a boy's foreskin will cut his future cancer risk," as stated by the very author of this "study," Jonathan Wright. "I would not go out and advocate for widespread circumcision to prevent prostate cancer... We see an association, but it doesn't prove causality." 

Still, Reuters' didn't hesitate to use the headline "Circumcision tied to lower prostate cancer risk." Nor did they hesitate to repeat misinformation.

Reuters' Repeats Blatant Misinformation
Without question, and without any actual demonstrable proof, Reuters' goes on to say: "The foreskin is prone to tiny tears during sex, which may help bacteria and viruses enter the bloodstream."

This is stated as matter-of-fact, foregone conclusion. This theory that "the foreskin is prone to tiny tears during sex which may help bacteria viruses enter the bloodstream" is one of the oldest hypotheses on which many a circumcision "study" has been based, beginning with the very circumcision/HIV rubbish that was produced in Africa. 

Few people know this, but it has actually been scientifically demonstrated that circumcision simply makes no difference.

One study found that there is “no difference between the keratinization of the inner and outer aspects of the adult male foreskin,” and that “keratin layers alone were unlikely to explain why uncircumcised men are at higher risk for HIV infection.” Another study found that “no difference can be clearly visualized between the inner and outer foreskin.”

These studies can be seen here:

Dinh, MH; McRaven MD, Kelley Z, Penugonda S, Hope TJ (2010-03-27). “Keratinization of the adult male foreskin and implications for male circumcision.”. AIDS 24 (6): 899-906. PMID 20098294.
*Dinh, Minh H; Sheila M Barry, Meegan R Anderson, Scott G McCoombe, Shetha A Shukair, Michael D McRaven, Thomas J Hope (2009-12-06), “HIV-1 Interactions and Infection in Adult Male Foreskin Explant Cultures” (PDF), 16th Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections, Montreal, Canada, 
*One of my readers has pointed out that the second study I cited was just a poster presentation at a conference. While this means too much weight can't be placed on this data, I'm still showing it just for the sake of even argument. After all, arguments in favor of circumcision are often drawn mostly or entirely from unpublished findings.

Reuters' should take note. 

In what I can only see as an effort to mask an ulterior motive, write utters: "We need to do more work to try to understand this... Our overarching goal is to understand how cancer develops in people." 

Really, Mr. Wright? 

Are you sure it's not to establish yet another pro-circumcision canard? 

Real World Fact
According to the American Cancer Society, 1 in 6 American men, 80% of whom are circumcised from birth, will get prostate cancer. If circumcision "prevents prostate cancer," it is not self-evident in the industrialized country with the highest rate of circumcision.

Source: GLOBOCAN 2008 Cancer Fact Sheet

The news outlets who published today's supposed "prostate cancer/circumcision link" ought to explain how the USA got to be the highest line on this prostate cancer incidence chart, when 80% of the male population is circumcised from birth. Readers must note that circumcision rates are much, much lower in Canada and Australia than in the US. Circumcision is not widely practiced in Japan, and limited to Muslims in India. Circumcision has become near universal in the Republic of Korea due to American influence, but note that it hovers above India, and it overtakes Japan.

The scientific community ought to call these "studies" out for what they are:


Scientists and researchers should be looking for newer, better ways to prevent disease, not seek to keep medical science in the stone age.

This is nothing more than yet another attempt to try and vindicate genital mutilation and the deliberate violation of the most basic of human rights.

Genital mutilation, whether it be wrapped in culture, religion or “research” is still genital mutilation.

It is mistaken, the belief that the right amount of “science” can be used to legitimize the deliberate violation of basic human rights.


  1. It seems like removing the PROSTATE would be the "best" way of completely preventing prostate cancer. Only in consenting adults would that be even remotely appropriate though.

  2. I mean, this is ridiculous. Any reasonable person can deduce or even think a little bit and see that there is no relation between circumcision and prostate cancer.

    Do they really think people are stupid enough to even believe blindly this kind of pseudo-news-science?

    This is just another tactic that uses fear as a form to scare people and make them believe through "science" that genital mutilation on non-consenting persons is legitimate violating basic human rights.

    We've seen these scare tactics used in the past: circumcision -prevents- masturbation, epilepsy, nervousness, idiocy, etc, etc, etc. Today it's HIV/AIDS and prostate cancer. Give me a break!

    How many more lies are these people going to say to justify a surgery that is not necessary?

  3. Joseph Brownstein.

    He has a BA in "Creative Writing, Biology/Public Health". That's an interesting, but unsurprising combination.

    In any case, the pro-circumcision tactic has really always been Death by a Thousand Cuts; the pro-circumcision lobby is quick to say that indeed no individual "advantage" is worth circumcision, but "taken together" the "overall advantage" permits and even demands the forced circumcision of completely healthy boys. Moreover, this tactic hedges against the debunking of even multiple justifications, as there is always a handful of other "advantages" waiting to be proffered.

    I think the message that intactivists need to hammer home is this: Regardless of any benefit touted, the forskin is a proportionally huge, protective, sexually pleasing swath of normal male genital tissue, and the forcible destruction of this tissue is a violation of human rights. People understand this for girls (as we all know, even a pin prick of just the labia is frowned upon as genital mutilation, even though things like labiaplasty and hoodectomy are considered valid surgeries for a woman to elect for herself), and as a result, nobody would even consider ANY combination of potential medical benefits as justification for female circumcision.

    The question we need to keep asking: Why is it illegal to make a pin prick on a girl, yet perfectly acceptable to throw a celebratory party for stripping the penis of half its shaft tissue via vivisection (and then sucking on the bloodied phallus, no less)? We need to start saying this ALL THE TIME. People can't escape the pin prick argument.

  4. It seems circumcision advocates have struck the following covert contract; that with enough "research" and "studies," it is possible to justify genital mutilation. This seems to only work exclusively for boys however; no one seems interested in finding any "benefits" for girls. There would never be enough "benefits" that would ever justify even the "ritual nick" the AAP proposed not so long ago.

    Nobody actually cares about the "science" or "research" as much as they care about framing circumcision in it. The more, the better. But this will also fail soon, as we keep pointing out that science cannot be used to justify the deliberate violation of the most basic of human rights.

    We always have to ask, with so much "research" and so many "studies," why is it "researchers" and "scientists" haven't been able to advance past circumcision? With so much knowledge we've supposedly acquired through "science" and "research," why can't they seem to find a better way to achieve the "benefits" circumcision is supposed to afford its subjects? The irony of the "myriad benefits" argument is that it falls apart upon examination. Of course one has to look at the "overall advantage," because once you start analyzing each "benefit" individually, you realize it's all speculative "benefits" based on shoddy science. A bunch of speculative "benefits" based on shoddy "studies" do not an "overall benefit" make.

    There are studies that outline the sensitivity of the penis, and that show that the most sensitive parts on the penis are on the foreskin, and that they are more sensitive than even the most sensitive part on the circumcised penis. But you know what? I think sensitivity and sexual response are secondary. First and foremost, is there a medical necessity?

    The standard of care for therapeutic surgery requires the medical benefits of the surgery to far outweigh the medical risks and harms, or for the surgery to correct a congenital abnormality. Unnecessarily invasive procedures should not be used where alternative, less invasive techniques, are equally efficient and available. It is unethical and inappropriate to perform surgery for therapeutic reasons where medical research has shown there to be other techniques to be at least as effective and less invasive.

    I think the bottom line will always be this:

    Genital mutilation, whether it be wrapped in culture, religion or “research” is still genital mutilation.

    It is mistaken, the belief that the right amount of “science” can be used to legitimize the deliberate violation of basic human rights.

    If one steps back, one will realize that circumcision advocates going on and on about "benefits" are merely chasing their own tails; they're trying to prove that fish need bicycles. It is illogical, irrational, unscientific, the idea of necessitating the deliberate destruction of normal, healthy body parts.

    Without medical or clinical necessity, doctors have absolutely no business performing surgery on healthy, non-consenting minors, let alone be giving parents any kind of a "choice."

  5. Thanks for creating this blog. Great job!

  6. Again, the sexual genital mutilators bark up the cancer-tree. The other times, after controlling for age, wealth, education, the correlation disappeared.

    By the way, you sound antiscience. Science is good, but this is not science:

    Any science-literate person knows that if one datamines enough, one will find spurious correlations. One must look at the totality of data. In science, this is called cherry-picking.

    These sexual genital mutilators take advantage of the lack of critical thinking and science-literacy. If we would require passing a class in critical thinking and passing a class in science-literacy, these frauds could not fool the American people. Unfortunately, we have religious people opposing such standards:

    Too many Americans are flat/young-Earth Geocentric creationists. If these people would have their way, which they unfortunately often do, especially, but not limited to, red states, schools would teach neither science nor critical thinking, but young/flat-Earth Geocentric creationism instead.

    To a scientifically literate critical thinker, this reeks of datamining for spurious correlations. This is obvious cherry-picking.

  7. I would like to add that in Australia and Canada, something like 80% of older men (in the age group for prostate cancer) are circed (more more than current infant rates). When I last looked at World figures, Australia, USA and Canada had the most prostate cancer. Circ prevents prostate cancer people have a bit of explaining to do.

    Also the circ prevents prostate cancer claim started back in the 50s at least. There was one extremely poorly done study comparing Israeli men under 50 with Swedish men of all ages claiming a correlation. Schoen referred to this on his website. When the study was corrected for age, the correlation vanished.

    There is a small possibility that circ increases prostate cancer, (especially tight circs that made masturbation difficult) but it doesn't seem to be researched.

  8. Interesting. I did read an article that circumcision has something to do with hygiene and not just religious belief. Anyway, I think the safest way to prevent pancreatic cancer is to practice a healthy lifestyle like what many Holistic Cancer Treatment Center advices.