January 10, 2011
New research finds that male circumcision, already shown to reduce the risk of female-to-male HIV transmission, also helps prevent infection with human papillomavirus (HPV), the STD responsible for most cases of cervical cancer and genital warts, in men's female partners.
In a study piggybacked onto a larger study of male circumcision and HIV infection in Rakai, Uganda, Dr. Maria Wawer and colleagues at Johns Hopkins University enrolled HIV-negative men and their HIV-negative female partners from 2003 and 2006. HPV infection data for nearly 1,000 women identified by the men as long-term sex partners were collected. After two years, 27.8 percent of the steady partners of circumcised men had HPV infections vs. 38.7 percent of uncircumcised men's partners.
"Our findings indicate that male circumcision should now be accepted as an efficacious intervention for reducing the prevalence and incidence of HPV infections in female partners," said the researchers. "However, protection is only partial; the promotion of safe-sex practices is also important," they stressed.
"Male circumcision has now been shown to decrease HIV, herpes simplex virus-type 2 and HPV infections, and genital ulcer disease in men, and also HPV infection, trichomoniasis, bacterial vaginosis, and genital ulcer disease in their female partners," wrote Wawer and colleagues. "Thus male circumcision reduces the risk of several sexually transmitted infections in both sexes, and these benefits should guide public health policies for neonatal, adolescent, and adult male circumcision programs."
The study, "Effect of Circumcision of HIV-Negative Men on Transmission of Human Papillomavirus to HIV-Negative Women: A Randomized Trial in Rakai, Uganda," was published in the Lancet (2011;doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(10)61967-8).