A surgical procedure to remove the prepuce of the PENIS in males and a part or all of the external genitalia in females (see below). Circumcision is mainly done for religious or ethnic reasons; there is virtually no medical or surgical reason for the procedure. (The PREPUCE is not normally retractable in infancy, so this is not an indication for the operation – by the age of four the prepuce is retractable in most boys.) Americans are more enthusiastic about circumcision, and the reason oﬀered is that cancer of the penis occurs only when a foreskin is present. This is however a rare disease. In the uncircumcised adult there is an increased transmission of herpes and cytomegaloviruses during the reproductive years, but this can be reduced by adequate cleansing. PHIMOSIS (restricted opening of the foreskin) is sometimes an indication for circumcision but can also be dealt with by division of adhesions between the foreskin and glans under local anesthetic. Haemorrhage, infection and meatal stenosis are rare complications of circumcision.
Circumcision in women is a damaging procedure, involving the removal of all or parts of the CLITORIS, LABIA majora and labia minora, sometimes combined with narowing of the entrance to the VAGINA. Total removal of the external female genitalia, including the clitoris, is called INFIBULATION. The result may be psychological and sexual problems and complications in childbirth, with no known beneﬁt to the woman’s health, though cultural pressures have resulted in its continuation in some Muslim and African countries, despite widespread condemnation of the practice and campaigns to stop it. It has been estimated that more than 80 million women in 30 countries have been circumcised.