So if you can spare your child from cancer, why wouldn't you, right?
Except that we don't understand the causes of every cancer, the risk factors, the mitigating factors, the appropriate methods of prevention, the rates of incidence and death. Did you know that if you Google "mammograms" right now that it auto-fills to "mammograms cause cancer?" Even the medical community is still figuring this one out.
But you know what nobody is saying? "Breasts cause cancer. Let's remove them all at birth." Y'know why? Because even though the rate of breast cancer in the U.S. is pretty high, we don't bet on it and we don't preemptively remove currently healthy body parts from our children.
Then there's the foreskin. Like no other part of our children's bodies, we decide to remove it at birth, and one of the reasons we are given is "it prevents penile cancer."
Want to learn a little more about penile cancer? Along with other male genital cancers, it's estimated to affect about 1500 men per year, with about 20% of those cases being fatal. That's an estimated 310 deaths per year in the U.S. due to penile cancer. The fact is "penile cancer is very uncommon in the United States, even among uncircumcised men."
Not only does breast cancer outnumber penile cancer by more than 225,000 new cases and almost 40,000 deaths per year, but MALE breast cancer occurs more commonly than penile cancer. Your SON is more likely to develop and die from breast cancer than of penile cancer. Almost 2200 men are diagnosed with breast cancer each year in the United States, and approximately 410 men will die of breast cancer each year.
The American Cancer Society does not recommend circumcision as a preventive measure for penile cancer. They do not have an official policy on circumcision (why should they, when their concern is cancer?), though when the American Academy of Pediatrics was trying to promote it as such in the mid-nineties, it did spark a response from some inside the ACS.
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What does the ACS itself have to say on the issue?
"Statements about circumcision preventing penile cancer and cervical cancer are cropping up on the Internet. A two-year-old letter being circulated on the Net discussing scientific evidence regarding penile cancer and its relationship to circumcision is personal correspondence reflecting the observations of two former ACS physician staff members. The American Cancer Society does not have a formal guideline statement on circumcision.
Penile cancer is extremely rare in the United States and accounts for less than one half a percent of cancers diagnosed among men and less than one tenth of a percent of cancer deaths among men. Circumcision is the removal of a part or all of the male foreskin either at birth or later on. This practice has been suggested as giving some protection against cancer of the penis by contributing to improved hygiene.
However, the penile cancer risk is low in some uncircumcised populations, and the practice of circumcision is strongly associated with socio-ethnic factors, which in turn are associated with lessened risk. The consensus among studies that have taken these other factors into account is circumcision is not of value in preventing cancer of the penis.
Proven penile cancer risk factors include having unprotected sexual relations with multiple partners (increasing the likelihood of human papillomavirus infection), and cigarette smoking."American Cancer Society. Dispelling Miscommunications: Statement on Penile Cancer. ACS News Today, Atlanta (1998).
So in the same way that you respect your infant daughter's right to keep her breast buds and make her own decisions as an adult when it comes to removal of body parts for cancer prevention, respect that your son's body belongs to HIM. It is only put in your care for safekeeping for a while. Whether or not to remove currently healthy parts for whatever purported health benefits should be his decision. To sacrifice those nerve endings based on such a minuscule risk is not a decision that should be made second hand. Only he can determine how much those nerve endings are worth.
The likelihood of your son being unhappy with his circumcision is most likely much greater than the chance that you've spared him from cancer by removing his foreskin.