Although vaccines will go a long way in protecting women against human papillomavirus (HPV) – the cause of almost all cervical cancers – studies have revealed that male circumcision can play an important role in curbing the prevalence of this life-threatening illness in women.
Trials in Uganda and South Africa have found a lower prevalence of high-risk strains of HPV among men who had been circumcised and, as a result, the incidence of high-risk HPV infection among their female partners was also found to be lower.
According to HIV management organisation CareWorks, cervical cancer is the most common cancer in women aged 15 to 44 in South Africa.
CareWorks’s prevention programmes manager Rachael Rawlinson said the findings give additional weight to programmes that promote circumcision for HPV prevention. HPV is spread through vaginal, anal, or oral sex. It can be passed even when an infected person has no signs or symptoms.
HPV causes almost 100% of cervical cancers, with HPV 16 and 18 contributing to more than 70% of cervical cancers.