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OBJECTIVE--To determine whether the circumcision status of men affected their likelihood of acquiring sexually transmissible diseases (STDs). DESIGN--A cross-sectional study employing an anonymous questionnaire, clinical examination and type specific serology for herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2). SETTING--A public STD clinic in Sydney, Australia. SUBJECTS--300 consecutive heterosexual male patients. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES--Associations between circumcision status and past or present diagnoses of STDs including HSV-2 serology and clinical pattern of genital herpes. RESULTS--185 (62%) of the men were circumcised and they reported similar ages, education levels and lifetime partner numbers as men who were uncircumcised. There were no significant associations between the presence or absence of the male prepuce and the number diagnosed with genital herpes, genital warts and non-gonococcal urethritis. Men who were uncircumcised were no more likely to be seropositive for HSV-2 and reported symptomatic genital herpes outbreaks of the same frequency and severity as men who were circumcised. Gonorrhoea, syphilis and acute hepatitis B were reported too infrequently to reliably exclude any association with circumcision status. Human immunodeficiency virus infection (rare among heterosexual men in the clinic) was an exclusion criterion. CONCLUSIONS--From the findings of this study, circumcision of men has no significant effect on the incidence of common STDs in this developed nation setting. However, these findings may not necessarily extend to other setting where hygiene is poorer and the spectrum of common STDs is different.