BALTIMORE, Aug. 21 (UPI) -- If U.S. circumcision rates drop to those of Europe during the next decade, it could add more than $4.4 billion in avoidable healthcare costs, researchers say.
Senior study investigator Dr. Aaron Tobian, an assistant professor at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, said the added expense would result from higher rates of sexually transmitted infections such as HIV/AIDS, herpes and genital warts, as well as cervical and penile cancers among uncircumcised men and their partners.
Tobian said earlier research found HIV was decreased by male circumcision -- a procedure that removes foreskin at the tip of the penis, hindering the buildup of bacteria and viruses in the penis' skin folds.
Roughly 55 percent of the 2 million U.S. male infants born each year are circumcised, a decline from a high of 79 percent in the 1970s and 1980s. Rates in Europe average only 10 percent, but in Denmark, only 1.6 percent of infant males undergo the procedure, Tobian said.
"Our economic evidence is backing up what our medical evidence has already shown to be perfectly clear," Tobian said in a statement. "There are health benefits to infant male circumcision in guarding against illness and disease, and declining male circumcision rates come at a severe price, not just in human suffering, but in billions of healthcare dollars as well."
The 20-year U.S. decline males circumcised at birth has already cost upwards of $2 billion, Tobian and his colleagues estimate.
The findings were published in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.