Cancer Council Australia refutes claims about circumcision and cancer of the penis

Make up a new claim re: circumcision and healthIn a desperate attempt to reverse the trend of declining circumcision rates in Australia, Sydney University’s Professor of Molecular Biology Brian Morris in 2011 cited reduced risks of cancer of the penis as one of many highly dubious claims in support of circumcising infant boys.

In a swift rebuttal to the claims,  Cancer Council Australia stated:

“There has been recent discussion in the Australian media about male circumcision, including suggestions that circumcision can reduce the risk of cancer. Circumcision, however, is not a cancer issue in Australia.”

Not only were the claims refuted, but a clear message was posted on their website to discourage circumcision proponents from perpetuating the false claims:

“Given the lack of evidence to support circumcision as a cancer control measure in Australia, in Cancer Council Australia’s view it is inappropriate to complicate the debate on circumcision by suggesting the procedure could contribute to reduced cancer burden in Australia.”

For some reason some parents continue to cite a reduced risk of penile cancer as a reason to amputate the most sensitive part of their baby boy’s body. This is despite cancer of the penis being so rare that it is difficult to get good statistics on this disease in Australia. In fact, Professor Morris agrees that cancer of the penis is rare by quoting: ‘It accounts for less than 1% of all malignancies in men in the USA and 0.1% of cancer deaths.’

Not only is cancer of the penis rare, but when it does occur it is usually in elderly men. According to, the median age of diagnosis is 64 years.

If circumcision did have a protective effect for penile cancer, in countries where circumcision rates have been declining dramatically we would expect to see an increase in the rates of penile cancer. But when the real world data is examined, the opposite is true. For example, in the USA where the circumcision rate has decreased from 91% in the 1970’s to around 55% in 2002, the incidence of penile cancer (quoted by Brian Morris himself) has actually ‘decreased from 0.84 per 100,000 men in 1973 to 0.58 per 100,000 in 2002’.

The available figures also show that there is no evidence that cancer of the penis is more common in countries that do not circumcise their children. In Denmark, which has an infant circumcision rate of less that 2%, the rate of penile cancer is actually less than that of the USA, where the rate of circumcision is comparatively high. Professor Morris argues that ‘other factors besides circumcision would appear to be relevant, be they diet, lifestyle, climate or other.’ Perhaps we should be researching those other diet and lifestyle factors instead of chopping off body parts from our babies.

Why do parents and the Australian media continue to put their faith in an individual with his own agenda for wanting to see circumcision return as a common practice in Australia, rather than the medical authority with the goal of reducing cancer in Australia?

Read the latest statement from Cancer Council Australia, which was updated in June 2012.

3 thoughts on “Cancer Council Australia refutes claims about circumcision and cancer of the penis

  1. Some parts of the Cancer Society statement are disturbing.

    “While a recent study suggests that circumcision may reduce the risk of prostate cancer, more research is needed before there is sufficient evidence to recommend population-level circumcision to help reduce prostate cancer incidence.”

    So do the authors think its ethical etc to recommend population-level (neonatal) circumcision because of some study that claims circ reduces this or that? (If they meant recommending it to adults that might be ethical, but I don’t think they meant that).

    Many circ studies are seriously flawed in a wide variety of ways. In the US in the early 1900s , population-level circumcision was supported by now abandoned studies.

    “There is evidence to consider wide-scale male circumcision in countries with insufficient resources to help prevent HPV infections and HPV-related cancers.”

    It would be a lot wiser to make available HPV vaccines etc in this countries. In any case, the HPV foreskin link claim is contentious. For example,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s