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Infection of the penile foreskin and
glans (balanoposthitis) is a painful and troublesome condition
which effects about 2.5% of uncircumcised males, most
often 2-5 years old, and is the commonest medical reason
for performing circumcision after the newborn period.
Recently British investigators, (Mallon et al., Arch Derm
2000) found that circumcision has a protective effect
against many skin disorders in addition to penile cancer.
Overall, uncircumcised males (average age 42 yrs) were
3 times as likely to get a wide variety of penile skin
disorders. The most common of these were psoriasis and
local infections. Other disorders more common in uncircumcised
males were genital herpes, mollusca, candida, seborrheic
dermatitis, lichen sclerosus, lichen planus, eczema and
plasma cell balanitis.
In addition to the increased prevalence
of skin disorders in uncircumcised males, the presence
of a foreskin makes proper diagnosis more difficult. For
instance, a plaque of psoriasis on an exposed glans is
easily recognizable but loses its characteristic scale
when covered by a foreskin.
The authors suggest a mechanism for this
increased risk of skin disorders in uncircumcised men.
The deep fold at the junction of the foreskin and penis
(near the coronal sulcus) is subject to irritation from
skin debris and glandular secretions, predisposing the
region to skin disorders.
This convincing evidence adds to an increasing
body of data on the multiple medical benefits of circumcision.
These include prevention of infant kidney infection, infection
with HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases, penile
cancer, and cervical cancer in the female sexual partner
of uncircumcised men.