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Ann Fam Med. 2010 Jan-Feb;8(1):64-72. doi: 10.1370/afm.1073.

Safety and efficacy of nontherapeutic male circumcision: a systematic review.

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ASERNIP-S, Royal Australasian College of Surgeons, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia.



We wanted to assess the safety and efficacy of nontherapeutic male circumcision through a systematic review of the literature.


We systematically searched The York Centre for Reviews and Disseminations, Cochrane Library, PubMed, and EMBASE databases for randomized controlled trials published between January 1997 and August 2008. Studies reporting on circumcision in an operative setting in males of any age with no contraindications to or medical indications for circumcision were eligible for inclusion. The main comparator was intact genitalia. From 73 retrieved studies, 8 randomized controlled trials were ultimately included for analysis.


Severe complications were uncommon. Analgesia/anesthesia during circumcision was promoted. The prevalence of self-reported genital ulcers was significantly lower in circumcised men than uncircumcised men (3.1% vs 5.8%; prevalence risk ratio 0.53; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.43-0.64; P<.001). Circumcised sub-Saharan African men were at significantly lower risk of acquiring human immunodeficiency virus/acquired immune deficiency syndrome than were uncircumcised men (random effects odds ratio = 0.44, 95% CI, 0.32-0.59; P <.001). The evidence suggests that adult circumcision does not affect sexual satisfaction and function.


Strong evidence suggests circumcision can prevent human immunodeficiency virus/acquired immune deficiency syndrome acquisition in sub-Saharan African men. These findings remain uncertain in men residing in other countries. The role of adult nontherapeutic male circumcision in preventing sexually transmitted infections, urinary tract infections, and penile cancer remains unclear. Current evidence fails to recommend widespread neonatal circumcision for these purposes.

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