By Madeline Kennedy
(Reuters Health) - Surgery to change penis appearance may not do much to stop locker-room teasing in high school, a new study suggests.
The urologists who conducted the study say parents who bring their young sons to be circumcised - or to get rid of some leftover foreskin after a circumcision - often say they're worried that their child may be teased later in life because of the appearance of his penis.
“We were looking to find out if the parents’ concerns about teasing in the locker room were valid,” said Dr. Chris Cooper, the study’s senior author from the University of Iowa.
As reported this month in The Journal of Urology, the researchers surveyed 290 undergraduate men at the University of Iowa about their high school gym classes and sports and any teasing they witnessed or experienced in the locker rooms.
Overall, 47 percent had seen others being teased about their penises - usually on a weekly basis.
Penis size was the reason for 83 percent of the taunts, the researchers found. A third of taunts focused on not being circumcised or having a “strange” looking penis.
Only 10 percent of the students reported actually being teased themselves, but Cooper said that may be an underestimate. Again, though, penis size and being uncircumcised were commonly to blame for the teasing.
The vast majority of the college students in the survey were circumcised, the researchers write. There was no difference between the uncircumcised and circumcised groups when the students were asked if they wished their penis had a different appearance.
The researchers found that the experience of being teased or witnessing teasing also did not have a significant effect on whether students wished for a different penile appearance.
Furthermore, being uncircumcised did not increase a student’s overall odds of being teased.
“The question then becomes: for those young men who were teased, would corrective surgery have made a difference?” Cooper said in a phone interview.
The answer, he said, is that while some children might benefit from having surgery to correct the appearance of their penis, the main subject of teasing - size - is not correctable by surgery.
Cooper said the study's results are limited, because they only surveyed one group of men from one Midwestern college, with higher-than-average circumcision rates.
Charbel El Bcheraoui, a global health researcher at the University of Washington in Seattle who was not involved with the new study, told Reuters Health by email that teasing "is a form of verbal bullying which can have long-term and short-term psychological effects on the victim."
Those risks include social isolation and decreased self-esteem, said El Bcheraoui.
This type of teasing should be addressed using social and educational strategies, he said.
As for whether an individual should undergo surgery to alter the appearance of his penis, Cooper said it's ultimately a judgment call.
SOURCE: bit.ly/1BpVlgf The Journal of Urology, published March 2015.