A new analysis led by Hutchinson Center researchers found circumcision before a male's first sexual intercourse may help protect against prostate cancer. Published online March 12 in the journal Cancer, the study suggests that circumcision can hinder infection and inflammation that may lead to this malignancy.
Lead author Dr. Jonathan Wright, along with Public Health Sciences Division colleagues, tested the protective effect of circumcision against the development of some cases of prostate cancer. Infections are known to cause cancer, and research suggests that sexually transmitted infections may contribute to the development of prostate cancer. Circumcision can prevent certain sexually transmitted infections.
For their study, Wright and Drs. Daniel Lin and Janet Stanford analyzed information from 3,399 men (1,754 with prostate cancer and 1,645 without). Men who had been circumcised before their first sexual intercourse were 15 percent less likely to develop prostate cancer than uncircumcised men.
The reduced cancer risk applied for both less and more aggressive forms of the disease. Specifically, men circumcised before their first sexual intercourse had a 12 percent reduced risk for developing less aggressive prostate cancer and an 18 percent reduced risk for developing more aggressive prostate cancer.
Plausible protection mechanisms
Sexually transmitted infections may lead to prostate cancer by causing chronic inflammation that creates a hospitable environment for cancer cells. Other mechanisms may also be involved. Circumcision may protect against sexually transmitted infections, and therefore prostate cancer, by toughening the inner foreskin and by getting rid of the moist space under the foreskin that may help pathogens survive.
"These data are in line with an infectious/inflammatory pathway which may be involved in the risk of prostate cancer in some men," said Wright, who is also an assistant professor of urology at the University of Washington School of Medicine. "Although observational only, these data suggest a biologically plausible mechanism through which circumcision may decrease the risk of prostate cancer. Future research of this relationship is warranted."
[Adapted from a Cancer news release]