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Arch Dermatol. 2000 Mar;136(3):350-4.

Circumcision and genital dermatoses.

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  • 1Department of Dermatology, Imperial College School of Medicine, Chelsea & Westminster Hospital, London, England.



It is well recognized that the presence of a foreskin predisposes to penile carcinoma and sexually transmitted infections. We have investigated the relationship between the presence or absence of the foreskin and penile dermatoses.


To determine whether there is an association between circumcision and penile dermatoses.


A retrospective case control study of patients attending the department of dermatology with genital skin conditions.


The study population consisted of 357 male patients referred for diagnosis and management of genital skin disease. The control population consisted of 305 male patients without genital skin disease attending the general dermatology clinics over a 4-month period.


The relationship between circumcision and the presence or absence of skin disease involving the penis was investigated. The rate of circumcision in the general male dermatology population was determined.


The most common diagnoses were psoriasis (n = 94), penile infections (n = 58), lichen sclerosus (n = 52), lichen planus (n = 39), seborrheic dermatitis (n = 29), and Zoon balanitis (n = 27). Less common diagnoses included squamous cell carcinoma (n = 4), bowenoid papulosis (n = 3), and Bowen disease (n = 3). The age-adjusted odds ratio for all penile skin diseases associated with presence of the foreskin was 3.24 (95% confidence interval, 2.26-4.64). All patients with Zoon balanitis, bowenoid papulosis, and nonspecific balanoposthitis were uncircumcised. Lichen sclerosus was diagnosed in only 1 circumcised patient. Most patients with psoriasis, lichen planus, and seborrheic eczema (72%, 69%, and 72%, respectively) were uncircumcised at presentation. The majority of men with penile infections (84%) were uncircumcised.


Most cases of inflammatory dermatoses were diagnosed in uncircumcised men, suggesting that circumcision protects against inflammatory dermatoses. The presence of the foreskin may promote inflammation by a köebnerization phenomenon, or the presence of infectious agents, as yet unidentified, may induce inflammation. The data suggest that circumcision prevents or protects against common infective penile dermatoses.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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