At a time when fewer parents are opting to have their newborn sons circumcised, a new study has come along that shows that removal of the foreskin may also remove the five most sensitive areas of the penis.

The research, reported this week by LiveScience, contradicts previous studies that found circumcision led to little, if any, decrease in penile sensitivity.

For the study, Morris Sorrells of the National Organization of Circumcision Information Resources Center and colleagues created a “penile sensitivity map” by measuring the sensitivity of 19 locations on the penises of 159 male volunteers. Of the participants, 91 were circumcised as infants and none had histories of penile or sexual dysfunction.

Researchers prodded dozens of male penises with a fine-tipped tool and found that the five areas most receptive to fine-touch are routinely removed by the surgery.

The original finding was detailed in the April issue of the British Journal of Urology (BJU) International.

The research showed that, for circumcised penises, the most sensitive region was the circumcision scar on the underside of the penis. For uncircumcised penises, the areas most receptive to pressure were five regions normally removed during circumcision—all of which were more sensitive than the most sensitive part of the circumcised penis.

To read the complete LifeScience story, click here.

According to a study by the National Health and Social Life Survey, the U.S. circumcision rate peaked at nearly 90 percent in the early 1960s but began dropping in the 1970s. By 2004, the most recent year for which government figures are available, about 57 percent of all male newborns delivered in hospitals were circumcised. In some states, the rate is well below 50 percent.

Many doctors still recommend circumcision because of some evidence that it reduces the risk of penile cancer, urinary tract infections, HIV and perhaps other sexual transmitted diseases. Many major insurance companies still cover it, and many hospitals offer it free for newborns.

But circumcision opponents say the medical benefits are dubious. Penile cancer, for example, is extremely rare. Since 1999, the American Academy of Pediatrics has not endorsed routine circumcision.