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Doctors Group to Announce New Policy on Circumcision

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Plagiocephaly, sometimes known as "flat-head syndrome," is easily treated in most cases. (Image credit: Vanessa Van Rensburg | Dreamstime)

An influential group of pediatricians is expected to release a new policy regarding infant circumcision next week. The new statement may be a shift towards a greater acknowledgement of circumcision's health benefits, experts said.

The new policy from the American Academy of Pediatricians will be announced on Monday, Aug. 27, according to the media relations manager for the organization.

Currently, the American Academy of Pediatrics' stance on circumcision is that, although some health benefits have been found, the evidence is not sufficient enough to recommend circumcision be done routinely.

This policy, which the AAP adopted in 1999 and reaffirmed in 2005, may have influenced insurance companies' reimbursement policies on circumcision, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Although nearly 80 percent of U.S. boys born in the 1970s and 1980s were circumcised, that number decreased to 62.5 percent in 1999, and 54.7 percent in 2010, according to a recent study. And since 1999, Medicaid policies in 18 states have stopped covering infant circumcision.

Experts expect that Monday's recommendations from the AAP will announce a change in course.

"The general feeling is that this will be a liberalization from current policy," which is fairly against circumcision, said Dr. Stephen Moses, a medical microbiology professor at the University of Manitoba in Canada, noting that he has no specific information about what the new policy will say.

The new statement may not make a general recommendation for or against circumcision, but instead, point out the benefits of the procedure that should be used when counseling parents on the decision, Moses said.

Studies conducted in Africa have shown circumcision reduces the risk of acquiring HIV by about 60 percent, and the risk of acquiring human papillomavirus (HPV), by about 50 percent. The procedure also reduces transmission of herpes.

Although rare, the procedure has risks, including minor bleeding and infection, according to the CDC. In the United States, the risk of experiencing complications with circumcision ranges from 0.2 percent to 2 percent, depending on the person operating, surgical instruments used, and other factors.

According to the Washington Post, the AAP's new policy statement will conclude that the benefits of circumcision outweigh the risks.

Pass it on: A new policy statement on circumcision will be released on Monday.

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Rachael Rettner

Rachael has been with Live Science since 2010. She has a master's degree in journalism from New York University's Science, Health and Environmental Reporting Program. She also holds a B.S. in molecular biology and an M.S. in biology from the University of California, San Diego. Her work has appeared in Scienceline, The Washington Post and Scientific American.