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J Pediatr Surg. 2018 Jul;53(7):1440-1443. doi: 10.1016/j.jpedsurg.2018.03.001. Epub 2018 Mar 8.

The evolutionary saga of circumcision from a religious perspective.

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Department of Pediatric Surgery, SRM Medical College, Chennai, India. Electronic address:


Circumcision is the oldest surgical operation known to mankind. It probably originated as a less radical form of genital mutilation inflicted on prisoners of war. Over time it was adopted by the Egyptian priesthood and nobility, perhaps inspired by the mythology of Osiris. In turn, circumcision became part of the Jewish and Muslim religious cultures. In contrast, ancient Greeks valued an intact prepuce, as evident from the nude figures of Renaissance art. In the 19th century, circumcision was touted as a treatment for excessive masturbation, seizures, epilepsy, and paraplegia. Adoption of the procedure by medical science was almost akin to a religious belief. By the mid-20th century, it was widely performed on male infants on the pretext of phimosis when the prepuce was not retractable. In 1949, Gairdner documented that the tight prepuce of infants gradually becomes retractile as childhood progresses. Thus, childhood circumcision solely for non-retractile prepuce is unnecessary, which is the foundation for modern anti-circumcision movements.


Circumcision; History of medicine; Prepuce; Religious influence

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