NEW SCIENTIST: Foreskin unfairly pushed aside

This one isn’t strictly circumcision and HIV related, but is important as the article below notes.

Sometimes a study comes along that makes you wonder whether the entire intent was to reassure people for whom it’s too late.

Take a study mentioned in a recent issue of New Scientist. Twenty circumcised men were compared with 20 intact men. Two points were tested using a monofilament sensitivity device. Several other measures were taken as well, including mean temperature differences in the flaccid and erect state. The study’s authors concluded no difference in sensitivity existed between the two groups.

Now, obviously you can’t test the bits removed during circumcision in the circumcised group. Therefore, it is simply false to say there is no difference when there is no comparison. What the authors should have said was that in the remaining penile structures, sensitivity was not significantly different, if that was a finding.

This is an easy conclusion to make if one understands the anatomy of the human penis. Shaft skin is clearly always exposed to clothing. So why should there be any difference? The tip of the glans is frequently exposed or partially exposed in intact men as well. Therefore, it would be important to know where they pressed their monofilament. At the tip? On the underside? Where? It matters.

To me, the more important finding is the difference in temperature changes. The fact that the changes are greater in intact men points to better vascularity over circumcised men. By the way, New Scientist missed this point entirely and failed to mention this finding.

New Scientist article used fairly, next page.

Does circumcision harm your sex life?

Does circumcision harm your sex life? This question has become more pressing than ever with the recent endorsement by the World Health Organization of circumcision as a means of reducing HIV infection in Africa (New Scientist, 31 March, p 7). But as two new studies show, it’s proving tricky to resolve.

Kimberley Payne of the Riverside Professional Centre in Ottawa, Canada, and her colleagues tested the sensitivity of 20 intact and 20 circumcised men’s penises as they watched erotic movie clips, by touching the penises with filaments that press down with predetermined amounts of pressure (The Journal of Sexual Medicine, DOI: 10.1111/j.1743-6109.2007.00471.x). They found no difference in penile sensation between circumcised and uncircumcised men.

However, when Robert Van Howe of Michigan State University used a similar method to measure sensitivity at 19 points along the penises of 163 men, he found that the five most sensitive points were all in portions of the penis removed by circumcision, especially those in folds exposed as the penis becomes erect (BJU International, vol 99, p 864).

Van Howe says Payne’s team might have had similar results if they had tested more men and made measurements at more than two points. He denied that funding by the National Organization of Circumcision Information Resource Centers, which opposes circumcision, influenced the result. “It would be hard to fake,” he says. He hopes other groups will try to replicate the findings.

Staff reports. Does circumcision harm your sex life? New Scientist, Issue 2601, page 17. April 26, 2007

About David Wilton

fronterizo, public defender, intactivist, gay
This entry was posted in Medicine and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.