Circumcision Linked to Increased Risk of Autism

New research has found that circumcised boys are more likely than intact boys to develop autism spectrum disorder (ASD) before the age of 10.

The risk is particularly high for infantile autism before the age of five, according to researchers in Copenhagen.

The study, carried out in Denmark, included more than 340,000 boys who were born between 1994 and 2003. The researchers, who followed the boys up to the age of nine, found that almost 5,000 cases of ASD were diagnosed.

The study’s findings showed that, regardless of cultural background, circumcised boys may run a greater risk of developing ASD. The researchers noted they also made an unexpected observation of an increased risk of hyperactivity disorder among circumcised boys in non-Muslim families.

“Our investigation was prompted by the combination of recent animal findings linking a single painful injury to lifelong deficits in stress response and a study showing a strong, positive correlation between a country’s neonatal male circumcision rate and its prevalence of ASD in boys,” noted researcher Morten Frisch, M.D., Ph.D., D.Sc.(Med), of the Statens Serum Institut in Copenhagen.

While it is unacceptable today to circumcise boys without proper pain relief, there is no way to eliminate the pain completely, the researchers said, adding that some boys will endure a lot of pain.

Painful experiences in infants have been shown in both animal and human studies to be associated with long-term alterations in pain perception, a characteristic often encountered among children with ASD, the researchers said.

“Possible mechanisms linking early life pain and stress to an increased risk of neurodevelopmental, behavioral, or psychological problems in later life remain incompletely conceptualized,” said Frisch.

“Given the widespread practice of non-therapeutic circumcision in infancy and childhood around the world, our findings should prompt other researchers to examine the possibility that circumcision trauma in infancy or early childhood might carry an increased risk of serious neurodevelopmental and psychological consequences.”

The study was published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine.

Source: Sage Publications