The Function of Foreskin

I think something really important gets left out in a lot of  circumcision debates.  People talk about ethics and tradition in regards to circumcision. People debate whether or not circumcision has health benefits. But something that often gets left out is that the foreskin actually has important functions that are lost when it is removed.

The following animated video highlights the functions of foreskin and what happens when it is removed:

Some of the key functions of foreskin include:

  • Protective function
  • Immunological defense
  • Sexual function

The Protective Function of Foreskin

The foreskin is often said to be a lot like the eyelid. Sebaceous glands in the foreskin produce secretions that maintain appropriate pH and cleanliness. It also serves to put a bit of distance between the urethral opening and the external environment, protecting the urethra from bacteria or other contaminants.

The Immunological Function of Foreskin

Enzymes and immune components are secreted by the foreskin’s mucous membranes, fighting off pathogens and disease. According to a report on the Immunological functions of the human prepuce, these immune components include:

  • cathepsin B
  • lysozyme
  • chymotrypsin
  • neutrophil elastase
  • cytokine
These components, like the secretions from vaginal mucosa in a female, are important for protecting the penis from infection.

The Sexual Function of Foreskin

The foreskin, the most sensitive part of the penis,  has sexual nerve endings that are lost with circumcision. It also maintains lubrication and the moist environment that allows it to enter the vagina with less friction.

This is why the circumcision debate is so important

We need to take into account not only the potential risks and supposed benefits of circumcision, but also the natural functions of the penis which are lost with foreskin removal.

It is important to note that neither Health Canada nor The College of Physicians & Surgeons of British Columbia support the use of routine circumcision for health reasons.

For more information, please see Why The Circumcision Debate Matters.

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