A University of North Carolina-led international study found human papillomavirus, a sexually transmitted virus, plays an important role in genital cancers in men and women, including cancers of the penis and cervix.
"Our data are the first to show that male circumcision may reduce HPV-associated penile precancerous lesions," senior author Jennifer Smith of the University of North Carolina Gillings School of Global Public Health says in a statement. "This represents an additional public health benefit of male circumcision."
The study was part of a larger trial undertaken to determine the effectiveness of male circumcision in reducing HIV incidence conducted by Robert Bailey of the University of Illinois at Chicago.
In the UNC-led study, 275 men participated -- 151 who were circumcised and 124 who were not.
"The percentage of men with HPV-associated precancerous penile lesions was substantially higher among those who were not circumcised -- 26 percent -- compared to those who were circumcised at .7 percent," Smith says. "Interventions that reduce HPV-associated penile lesions could be important to both men and women, because such lesions may increase HPV transmission from men to their sexual partners."