Circumcision: A guide for parents

by Professor Brian Morris

Circumcision is a simple surgical procedure that removes the foreskin ­ a sleeve of skin covering the tip of the penis. Parents have the legal right to authorize circumcision. In order to make an informed decision, they must carefully consider the benefits and risks.

Since the foreskin traps bacteria and other infectious agents, as well as accumulating malodorous smegma, its removal improves genital hygiene and reduces risk of diseases and other conditions over the lifetime for the boy and his future sexual partners.


Circumcision has been performed for thousands of years as part of the culture of indigenous people who live in hot environments such as in Australia, the Pacific Islands, equatorial countries, the Middle East, Africa and the Americas. In Australia all newborn boys were once circumcised routinely. Circumcision then decreased in the mid-1970s, but is now rising again, in line with research. Over 60% of Australian men are circumcised.

Benefits of circumcision

Risks of circumcision

In conclusion

Circumcision confers a lifetime of medical benefits. 1 in 3 uncircumcised boys will develop a condition requiring medical attention. This means various degrees of suffering and, in rare cases, death. In contrast, risk of an easily-treatable condition is 1 in 500, and of a true complication is 1 in 5000. A successful circumcision is very unlikely to have any long-term adverse consequences.

Thus, benefits exceed moderate risks by over a hundred to one!

Further information

may be obtained from the following web sites:

The author wishes to thank the various international medical experts who helped in formulation of this Guide.

Brian Morris

is a Professor in the School of Medical Sciences at the University of Sydney, where he has taught medicine and science students since 1978.

After graduating from the University of Adelaide, he conducted research for doctoral studies in the departments of medicine of the University of Melbourne and Monash University, at the Austin and Prince Henry hospitals, respectively, from 1972. This was followed in 1975 by further reasearch as a C J Martin Fellow of the National Health & Medical Research Council of Australia, in the School of Medicine of the University of Missouri in Columbia, and the University of California in San Francisco. In 1993 he was awarded a DSc based on his published work, which currently extends to over 230 research articles on molecular biology and genetics, hypertension, and cervical screening. It is the latter topic that fostered his interest in circumcision.

He is not aligned with any religious, political, medical or other group that may have any influence on the topic of circumcision. The views he expresses arise from independent research published in medical journals.

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Updated April 2006
Copyright © 2006 Brian Morris and The Gilgal Society