By Selena Hill (staff@latinospost.com) | First Posted: Aug 22, 2013 02:45 PM EDT

A Palestinian baby is circumcised at Patient Care Association in Gaza May 20, 2010. Circumcision is a common surgery for Muslims in accordance to the teachings of Prophet Mohammed. They believe that it purifies the body from dirtiness, and immunizes it from diseases. (Photo : REUTERS/Mohammed Salem)

A new report released Thursday from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed that fewer newborns are being circumcised in the United States in recent decades.

The rate of circumcisions performed on newborn boys in U.S. hospitals dropped 6 percent over the last three decades, from 64.5 percent to 58.3 percent between 1979 and 2010. The decline in circumcision has been particulary steep in Western states, according to U.S. government data, reports the NY Daily News. However, that figure excludes circumcisions performed in other places such as religious institutions and those performed later in life.

The rate was highest in 1981, at 64.9 percent, and began declining during the 1980s. The rate rose again in the 90s, and fell again in the 2000s, reaching a low of 55.4 percent in 2007.

The biggest overall decline was seen in the West, where the rate dropped from 63.9 percent in 1979 to 40.2 percent in 2010, reports Yahoo! News.

The U.S. adopted the practice due to potential health benefits, such as reducing the risk of urinary tract infections in infants and cutting the risk of penile cancer and sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV.

Still, the practice has been the subject of heated debate, including efforts to ban circumcision in San Francisco and Germany.

The American Academy of Pediatrics said last August that the health benefits of infant circumcision outweigh the risks of the surgery.

A number of factors could be contributing to the drop in circumcisions, including the fact that the federal Medicaid program for the poor no longer pays for circumcisions in some 18 U.S. states, and some insurers refusing to pay for the procedure without strong medical justification.

In addition, hospitalization lengths over the decades for mothers and newborns have come to be measured in hours, rather than days, prompting more circumcisions to be done in outpatient settings.

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