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Rates of Circumcision slashed in past 30 years

The Gazette, National section, Montreal, Quebec, Canada, March 23, 2006

CANWEST NEWS SERVICE

Saskatoon- Circumcisions in Canada are on the way out.

Fewer than 14 percent of Canadian infant boys were circumcised in 2003, a drop of nearly 36 percent since 1973, says the Association for Genital Integrity.

According to data gathered prom provincial health departments and Statistics Canada. the association says male infant circumcision rates are as high as 29.5 percent in P.E.I. and as low as 1.1 percent in Nova Scotia.

Robin Walker, former president of the Canadian Pediatric Society, said culture is often the biggest influence in choosing whether to remove the skin covering the head of the penis. So, too, is whether the father went under the knife, he said.

The pediatric society says there is no medical need for circumcision. Walker said the only proven benefit is a reduced chance of urinary tract infection, "and that is not, in the view of the CPS, a reason for inflicting it on a baby."

Risks include minor bleeding in about five percent of cases, and in rare instances, life-threatening infections or hemorrhage.

Studies citing long-term benefits of circumcision - such as better protection from HIV and penile cancer - are "questionable and unproven," Walker added.

In most of Canada, parents must also pay for the surgical procedure, becasue it's deemed "cosmetic."

Only Manitoba still covers circumcisions under medicare.

SASKATOON STARPHOENIX