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Circumcision in genital warts—let us not forget!
  1. S Dogra,
  2. B Kumar
  1. Department of Dermatology, Venereology and Leprology, Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research, Chandigarh, India
  1. Correspondence to:
 Professor Bhushan Kumar, Department of Dermatology Venereology and Leprology, Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research, Chandigarh-160 012, India; 

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Patients with genital warts present to the healthcare professional with two major problems of persistence and recurrence. These problems are attributable to the persistence of human papillomavirus in the keratinocytes, defective immune response in individuals with persistence and recurrence of warts, and the lack of specific antiviral therapy. Various treatments tried in the management of genital warts are topical podophyllin, podophyllotoxin, cryotherapy, electrosurgery, chemical cautery, carbon dioxide laser, 5-fluorouracil cream, topical imiquimod cream, and intralesional interferon.1–3 We wish to highlight the role of circumcision in extensive genital warts involving prepuce, which were refractory to the conventional treatment.

A 50 year old patient presented to us with genital warts for duration of 4 years. On examination, lesions were in the form of sessile, filliform, and papular keratotic verrucous lesions present involving both outer and undersurface of almost whole of the prepuce (fig 1). These lesions were treated by us and in the past by various doctors with topical podophyllin, trichloroacetic acid cautery, electrosurgery, etc, for periods ranging from weeks to months with only minimal response, with the lesions coming back. The patient had some difficulty in retraction of the prepuce and was psychologically disturbed. The patient otherwise was healthy with no evidence of any other disease. Considering the extensive insolvent of prepuce and refractory nature to various treatments, circumcision was performed. Histopathological examination of the excised tissue showed changes consistent with warts without any cellular atypia. Surgical wound healed well in a week with no complications.

Extensive genital warts with evidence of keratinisation are often refractory to podophyllin, podophyllotoxin, and cryotherapy, etc, and are best dealt with surgically or by topical 5-fluorouracil cream. Scissor excision has been mentioned in the treatment of sessile lesions over the shaft of penis, labia majora, and perianal warts.3 However, circumcision for extensive prepucial warts finds no place in the list of treatments for genital warts in men. In addition to the psychological morbidities, larger and more numerous warts can cause discomfort, and particularly involving prepuce can cause phimosis, secondary infection, and marital disharmony and considerable anxiety in the sexual partner. Globally, approximately 25% of the men are circumcised for religious, cultural, medical, or parental choice reasons. However, controversies surround its benefits and protective effects against STDs.4 For genital warts, one study has reported a significant association with the lack of circumcision.5

Substantive evidence supports the premise that circumcision protects males from HIV infection, penile carcinoma, urinary tract infections, and ulcerative STDs.4 Although it may be debatable to recommend circumcision to reduce the risk of acquiring any one of the other STDs/HIV infection in isolation, taken together however the psychological and sexual discomforts for the patients and their sexual partners with recurrent/persistent extensive prepucial warts, circumcision should be tried.

Figure 1

Circumcised prepuce studded with extensive warts.