Something about being circumcised may offer men a degree of protection from developing prostate cancer later in life, suggests a new study from Canada.
Researchers suspect the connection may be the lower rate among circumcised men of sexually transmitted diseases (STD), which raise prostate cancer risk, but they caution that more study is needed to confirm that theory.
“It’s still premature to say go ahead with circumcision to prevent prostate cancer,” said lead author Marie-Elise Parent. “But, we think it could be helpful.”
Based on interviews with more than 3,000 men, her team found that those circumcised as infants were 14 percent less likely than uncircumcised men to develop prostate cancer. The men who had been circumcised as adults were 45 percent less likely to develop the cancer than uncircumcised men.
Researchers have long known that Muslim and Jewish men have lower rates of prostate cancer than men in the West, suggesting that circumcision may play a role in cancer risk, the study team writes in the British urology journal BJU International.
To investigate the connection, Parent, a cancer epidemiologist at the University of Quebec’s INRS-Institut Armand-Frappier in Montreal, and her colleagues recruited 3,208 men in the Montreal area.
The participants were all between 40 and 75 years old when they were recruited and 1,590 of them had been diagnosed with prostate cancer. The other 1,618 men did not have prostate cancer but were otherwise similar in health and age.
Between 2006 and 2011, all the men were interviewed at home, with in-depth questions about their health and lifestyle, medical history, family history of cancer and work history.
Overall, 40 percent of white men and 30 percent of black men interviewed were circumcised.
For the entire group, researchers found an 11 percent lower risk of having prostate cancer among circumcised men, but noted that it was not statistically significant, meaning it could have been due to chance.
The team did find a significant difference among circumcised black men, who were 60 percent less likely than uncircumcised men to have prostate cancer.
“Black men have the highest rate (of prostate cancer) on the planet and we don’t know why,” Parent told Reuters Health. “It’s really puzzling trying to figure out why this cancer is so common in men that live in industrialized countries, when we understand so little about what’s going on with it and have no way of preventing it.”
The National Cancer Institute estimates that in the U.S., almost three million