Hill expresses surprise at the higher rates of inflammation in uncircumcised boys older than one year reported by Fergusson et al. However, this finding is well supported by other reports in the literature. Indeed, Van Howe's study, cited by Hill, appears to be unique in reporting lower rates in uncircumcised males (that study was limited by the fact that only 36 of the 468 boys studies were uncircumcised).
Herzog and Alvarez found greater rates of both balanitis (6% versus 3%) and irritation (4% versus 1%) in uncircumcised children, though this was not statistically significant.
Circumcision appears to have a protective effect in adulthood. Fakjian et al. report on a study of randomly selected adult dermatology patients. 2.3% of circumcised men were found to have balanitis, compared with 12.5% of uncircumcised men. In Wilson's study of Canadian soldiers, all of the balanitis cases were uncircumcised, while only 52% of the control group were uncircumcised. Hart reported that balanitis was almost entirely confined to the uncircumcised in Australian soldiers, though 74% of soldiers overall were circumcised. Reporting on a study of penile yeasts, Davidson reported that although similar rates were found in circumcised and uncircumcised males, circumcised men had significantly fewer symptoms. In another study of dermatology patients, Mallon et al. found that 84% of those with penile infections were uncircumcised, versus 52% of controls. The researchers calculated an age-adjusted odds ratio of 3.24 for penile skin diseases associated with the presence of the foreskin.
The foreskin is a warm, moist fold of skin, beneath which can be found desquamated epithelial debris, fats and proteins. These conditions would seem to encourage the growth of bacteria, and research has shown that is the case. Not only this, the prepuce has also been identified as the site of a diminished immune response.
Serour et al. found a higher prevalence of pathogenic bacteria in the subpreputial space. Fussell et al. found that pathogenic bacteria adhere to the mucosal lining of the foreskin. Wiswell et al. found greater likelihood, as well as higher concentrations, of pathogenic bacteria in glans and urethral cultures taken from uncircumcised children. Glennon et al. found Proteus mirabilis in 22.6% of periurethral area and urethral meatus swabs from uncircumcised children, versus only 1.7% of circumcised children. Neubert and Lentze reported greater density of bacteria in uncircumcised males. Cascio et al. reported that antibiotics were ineffective at reducing bacterial colonisation of the prepuce. Savas et al. suggest that the prepuce acts as a faecal reservoir. Wijesinha et al. tested a number of boys before and after circumcision for uropathogens. Before circumcision, 52% had uropathogens. After, none had. Gunsar et al. reported similar findings, from 64% before circumcision to 10% afterwards. Bhargava and Thin report that carriage of group B streptococci may be associated with balanitis. This was also noted by Jackson et al.
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