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Male Circumcision Reduces Chances of Human Papillomavirus

A new study shows a lower risk of herpes and HPV in men who are circumcised. Transcript of radio broadcast:

This is the VOA Special English Health Report.

Male circumcision is the cutting off of a small amount of skin from the tip of the penis. In many parts of the world it is done when a baby is a few days old. However, in other parts of the world it is unacceptable.

Studies have shown that male circumcision can reduce a man's risk of getting HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. Now, a new study shows that it can also reduce a man's risk of getting human papillomavirus, or HPV. The research also shows circumcision reduces the risk for another common sexually transmitted infection, genital herpes. The study was published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The study was led by scientists at Johns Hopkins University in Maryland and Makerere University in Uganda. It involved about three thousand four hundred uncircumcised Ugandan men between the ages of fifteen and forty-nine. None had HIV, genital herpes or HPV at the start of the study. The men were split into two groups. One group got immediate circumcisions. The others had it done two years later.

All the men were tested for sexually passed diseases four times in the next two years. The researchers found that those who had been circumcised were twenty-eight percent less likely to get genital herpes than uncircumcised men. They were thirty-three percent less likely to get HPV.

Ronald Gray of Johns Hopkins was a lead investigator. He says the team will now study whether female partners of the men in the study experienced any reduction of risk of the diseases. This is especially important in the case of human papillomavirus.

HPV causes cervical cancer. That disease kills almost three hundred thousand women around the world every year. It is the number one cancer killer of women in poor countries.

There is a vaccine against the human papillomavirus. American medical officials have advised that the vaccine, called Gardasil, be given to girls around age eleven. But, like circumcision, it is an issue of public debate. Some American parents argue that the vaccine will make their girls more likely to have sex early. Others question the vaccine's safety and effectiveness.

Now, Gardasil's maker, Merck, has asked the Food and Drug Administration to approve the drug for boys beginning at age nine. The complete treatment costs several hundred dollars.

And that's the VOA Special English Health Report, written by Caty Weaver. I'm Bob Doughty.