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The Cervical Cancer—Circumcision Link

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Whether your man is circumcised or not can have big implications for your health. Uncircumcised men haven't had their foreskin—the loose skin that covers the head of the penis—surgically removed. And women who have sex with them run a higher risk of developing cervical cancer, says a report published by the Catalan Institute of Oncology in Barcelona, Spain.

Researchers examined data from previous studies of more than 1,900 couples in five countries. In fact, among couples in which the man was uncircumcised and had at least six sex partners, the risk of his partner getting cervical cancer was more than double that of partners of circumcised men with multiple partners.

Uncircumcised men were three to five times more likely to be infected by the human papillo-mavirus (HPV), which they may then pass on to their partners through sexual intercourse. This virus can cause genital warts in both men and women and has been linked to cervical cancer. Doctors aren't certain why being snipped protects against HPV infection, but they suspect that the inside surface of the foreskin is more vulnerable to infection than other penile skin.

The bottom line? "Whether her partner's circumcised or not, a woman needs to take a proactive role in her health care," says Beth Y. Karlan, M.D., director of gynecological oncology at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. "Using condoms can significantly reduce her risk of contracting HPV and other sexually transmitted diseases. And women should have a Pap smear at least once each year."

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