Cervical cancer is the most common female cancer in women aged 15 to 44 years in South Africa, and while vaccines will go a long way in protecting women against the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) – the cause of almost all cervical cancer cases – studies reveal that male circumcision too has an important role to play in curbing the incidence of this life-threatening illness in women.
Trials in Uganda and South Africa 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.
Rachael Rawlinson, the Prevention Programmes’ Manager at HIV-management organisation, CareWorks says these findings give additional weight to programmes that promote circumcision for HIV prevention, particularly in districts that don’t have proper cervical screening programmes in place.
“Even though cervical screening is currently available in South Africa and has been for some time, national screening coverage is low, particularly in rural areas. Despite the National Department of Health’s introduction of a national screening policy and vaccination campaigns, cervical cancer remains the second most common female cancer and the leading cause of female cancer deaths in South Africa,” says Rawlinson.
HPV is spread through vaginal, anal, or oral sex with someone who has the virus. HPV 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 over 70% of cervical cancers.
“Medical male circumcision, along with correct and consistent condom use, cervical screening programmes and HPV vaccines being made available to all women are vital interventions that are likely to have a dramatic impact on cervical cancer rates in our country.
“All women should encourage their male partners to undergo circumcision as it not only reduces a women’s risk of contracting HPV and cervical cancer, but also reduces the risk of genital warts and other common sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in men and women. It also reduces a man’s risk of contracting HIV by up to 60%, and lowers his risk of penile cancer,” concludes Rawlinson.
To find out more information or where you, your son, friend or partner, can undergo free medical male circumcision: send a free ‘please call me’ to 0606 800 800 and a counsellor will get back to you.