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ESF Sounds Alarm on Male Infertility

Internal Medicine News,  Nov 29, 2010
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The European Science Foundation is warning that too little attention and money are being paid to the issue of male reproductive health in European countries, where a host of issues affecting young men might be contributing to lower fertility rates.

Reduced semen quality, increased incidence of testicular cancer, and high incidence of congenital reproductive malformations such as cryptorchidism, combined with women delaying pregnancy, "will lead to increased fertility problems in couples and its attendant socioeconomic impacts," the organization said in a report published Nov. 29. "The crucial question is whether semen quality among young men in Europe is now so low that it has reached a threshold at which fertility rates may be affected."

An estimated one-fifth of 18- to 25-year-old European men have oligospermia, as measured by World Health Organization guidelines, according to results from a large cohort study (Am. J. Epidemiol. 2009 September 1;170(5):559-65) cited in the report.

The report’s corresponding author, Dr. Niels E. Skakkebaek of the University of Copenhagen, has been among Europe’s most vocal proponents of the need to increase attention to male reproductive problems, having conducted investigations into factors as diverse as caffeine intake, pesticide exposure, consumption of hormone-treated beef, and a history of febrile illness in affecting semen quality. Increasingly, Dr. Skakkebaek and other fertility researchers have focused on threats to male reproductive health that emerge during fetal development, particularly testicular abnormalities – frequently precursors to poor fertility – associated with mothers’ exposure to environmental chemicals.

Poor male reproductive health also is linked to obesity, Dr. Skakkebaek and his colleagues noted, with more research needed into the associations between male reproductive, endocrine, and cardiovascular health.

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