Circumcision remains a contentious issue — opponents argue that it's unnecessary genital mutilation, while fans say foreskin just plain looks funny.

But today, the American Academy of Pediatrics made a major shift to the pro-circumcision side when they reported that the procedure offers serious health benefits.

This is a major blow for anti-circumcision advocates — and a direct reversal of the group's 1999 position that there are no health benefits to circumcision. They affirmed that position in 2005.

Susan Blank, who led the task force that published the new report in Pediatrics, explains the new findings.

The health benefits of male circumcision include a drop in the risk of urinary tract infection in the first year of life by up to 90 percent. ... It drops the risk of heterosexual HIV acquisition by about 60 percent. It drops the risk of human papillomavirus [HPV], herpes virus and other infectious genital ulcers.

The CDC has not made a call on circumcision's effect on preventing infection.

Anti-circumcision advocate Georgeanne Chapin of the group Intact America maintains that these pediatricians are full of crap.

They're cherry-picking their evidence. They act as though there's this huge body of literature. It's all the same couple of studies that have been regurgitated and reprogrammed. Over the past 150 years, all kinds of medical benefits have been proposed as resulting from cutting off the foreskin, and they have all been disproven.

It remains to be seen if the latest report will actively encourage circumcisions — the rate has dropped to only 56 percent of newborns in the U.S., a major decline from 79 percent in the '70s and '80s.

Since circumcision has somewhat fallen out of favor, many insurers have also stopped covering circumcisions. In part, the AAP hopes its new position will encourage coverage for the procedure.

Regardless of what a group of pediatricians say, the medical debate rages on. And outside of any evidence about disease-prevention, the argument over aesthetics will likely continue indefinitely.

It's probably also worth noting that there's evidence foreskin increases sexual pleasure, if you care about that sort of thing.

[Image via Shutterstock]