Men who use mobile phones face increased risk of infertility
by JENNY HOPE
Last updated at 21:01pm on 23rd October 2006
Men who use mobile phones could be risking their fertility, warn researchers.
A new study shows a worrying link between poor sperm and the number of hours a day that a man uses his mobile phone.
Those who made calls on a mobile phone for more than four hours a day had the worst sperm counts and the poorest quality sperm, according to results released yest at the American Society for Reproductive Medicine annual meeting in New Orleans.
Doctors believe the damage could be caused by the electromagnetic radiation emitted by handsets or the heat they generate.
The findings suggest millions of men may encounter difficulties in fathering a child due to the widespread use of mobile phones and offers another possible explanation for plummeting fertility levels among British males.
Sperm counts among British men have fallen by 29 per cent over the past decade, a drop which has also been blamed on increasing obesity, smoking, stress, pollution and 'gender-bending' chemicals which disrupt the hormone system.
The latest study backs up previous research which indicated a link between mobile phone use and sperm quality, but it is the biggest and best designed to date.
US researchers in Cleveland and New Orleans, and doctors in Mumbai, India, looked at more than 360 men undergoing checks at a fertility clinic who were classified into three groups according to their sperm count.
Men who used a mobile for more than four hours a day had a 25 per cent lower sperm count than men who never used a mobile.
The men with highest usage also had greater problems with sperm quality, with the swimming ability of sperm - a crucial factor in conception - down by a third.
They had a 50 per cent drop in the number of properly formed sperm, with just one-fifth looking normal under a microscope.
Professor Ashok Agarwal, director of the Reproductive Research Centre at the Cleveland Clinic, Ohio, who led the study, said "Almost a billion people are using cell phones around the world and the number is growing in many countries at 20 to 30 per cent a year.
"In another five years the number is going to double. People use mobile phones without thinking twice what the consequences may be.
"It is just like using a toothbrush but mobiles could be having a devastating effect on fertility. It still has to be proved but it could have a huge impact because mobiles are so much part of our lives."
Altogether 361 men in the study were divided into four groups, with 40 never using a mobile, 107 men using them for less than two hours a day, 100 men using them for two-four hours daily and 114 making calls for four or more hours a day.
The main finding was that on four measures of sperm potency - count, motility, viability and morphology, or appearance - there were significant differences between the groups.
The greater the use of mobile phones, the greater the reduction in each measure. Prof Agarwal said "This was very clear and very significant. Many in the lowest group for sperm count would be below normal as defined by the World Health Organisation."
The WHO says a normal sperm count is above 20 million per millilitre of seminal fluid. "There was a significant decrease in the most important measures of sperm health with cell phone use and that should definitely be reflected in a decrease in fertility" he said.
Motility measures the swimming ability of sperm, viability measures whether non-swimming sperm are still alive while morphology is the appearance compared to the norm.
Although the men were seeking fertility treatment at a clinic in Mumbai, not all would have had a problem - it could be their partners, he added.
Prof Agarwal said the most likely mechanism was damage to sperm- making cells in the testes caused by electromagnetic radiation or heat, although a fall in hormone production could also affect sperm motility and sperm DNA.
He said: "These cells in the testes have been shown to be susceptible to electromagnetic waves in previous research in animals.
"Somehow electromagnetic waves may be causing direct damage to these cells and that perhaps causes a decrease in sperm production."
Mobiles may also increase temperature in the groin, if a man was wearing it on a belt or carrying it around in a pocket.
Prof Agarwal said it was too early to advise men trying to start a family about whether they should limit their mobile phone use. He said "We still have a long way to go to prove this but we have just had another study approved."
More than 40 million people in Britain are thought to use mobile phones. Alasdair Philips, director of the consumer pressure group Powerwatch said "It's a plausible link between the amount of time spent using a mobile phone and a possible effect on male fertility.
"The eyes, breasts and testicles are the areas of the body most likely to absorb the energy and many men carry their mobiles attached to their belt."
Sending text messages uses less power than talking but it can be a more intense emission of radiation, especially on trains, he said.
"I've seen men on trains spending two or three hours continually texting with their mobile phones held in their laps, and they press Send in the same position when it starts to seek a signal.
"This needs a considerable amount of power within what is effectively a metal box. We advise people to send a text with their arm outstretched next to the window when travelling on a train" he added.
He said local heating of the groin triggered by a mobile phone might also be involved in affecting sperm quality.
"Sperm is very temperature sensitive as shown by many studies, and a short-term rise in temperature could be responsible" he added.
However, Dr Allan Pacey, senior lecturer in andrology at the University of Sheffield, said "This is a good quality study but I don't think it tackles the issue.
"If you're using your phone for four hours a day, presumably it is out of your pocket for longer. That raises a big question: how is it that testicular damage is supposed to occur?"
He said mobile phone use may be a marker for other lifestyle factors known to affect sperm quality.
"Maybe people who use a phone for four hours a day spend more time sitting in cars, which could mean there's a heat issue. It could be they are more stressed, or more sedentary and sit about eating junk food getting fat. Those seem to be better explanations than a phone causing the damage at such a great distance" he added.
Cell phones may hurt sperm
Globe and Mail
Men who spend hours on their cell phones have lower sperm counts than usual, according to new research that suggests radiation or heat from the phones could be to blame.
Both quality and quantity appear to be affected by heavy cell phone use.
In an observational study carried out in Cleveland, Mumbai and New Orleans, 364 men who were undergoing evaluation for infertility were divided into three groups according to their sperm count.
Among the men with a normal sperm count, those who did not use a cell phone at all averaged 86 million per millilitre, with 68 per cent motility (swimming ability) and 40 per cent being in normal form.
However, men who used a cell phone for more than four hours a day averaged 66 million sperm per millilitre, with 48 per cent motility and 21 per cent taking normal form.
The findings, from a team led by Ashok Agarwal of the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, could indicate that the electromagnetic fields generated by mobile phone handsets are interfering with sperm production.
In the paper ‘Relationship between cell phone use and human fertility: an observational study' presented to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine conference in New Orleans on Monday, Dr. Agarwal says the use of cell phones is strongly associated with a decrease in sperm quality, but said large scale studies are needed to identify exactly what is causing that drop.
Dr. Agarwal said that if the effect is genuinely caused by mobiles, several explanations are possible. Animal work has shown that electromagnetic fields can damage Leydig cells in the testes. Mobile phones are also known to cause a heating effect on tissue that could be damaging to sperm.
Both phenomena occur over short distances, so holding a phone at a distance from the crotch while speaking should not be dangerous.
Mobiles may decrease men's fertility
From Mark Henderson,
Science Editor of The Times, in New Orleans
Men who are heavy users of mobile phones have significantly lower sperm counts than usual, according to new research that suggests radiation from handsets could be damaging male fertility.
Both the quantity and quality of a man’s sperm declines as his daily mobile use increases, a study of 361 infertility patients in the United States has found.
The greatest effects were seen among very heavy users who talk on a mobile for more than four hours a day, these produce about 40 per cent less sperm than men who never use a mobile at all. Smaller falls in sperm count were also seen among those who use mobiles less frequently.
The findings, from a team led by Ashok Agarwal of the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, could indicate that the electromagnetic fields generated by mobile phone handsets are interfering with sperm production. Previous studies have shown that close and heavy exposure to this form of radiation damages sperm in the laboratory, though an effect has never been convincingly demonstrated in the real people.
Other researchers cautioned that the study shows only an association between mobile phone use and sperm counts and not a causal link. It is more likely that heavy use is a proxy for another factor, such as stress or obesity, that is actually responsible for the effect, they said.
"On the face of it, the findings seem pretty robust, but I can only assume that mobile phone use is some kind of surrogate for something else," said Allan Pacey, a senior lecturer in andrology at the University of Sheffield. "If you are holding it up to your head to speak a lot, it makes no sense it is having a direct effect on your testes.
"Maybe people who use a phone for four hours a day spend more time sitting in cars, which could mean there’s a heat issue. It could be they are more stressed, or more sedentary and sit about eating junk food getting fat. Those seem to be better explanations than a phone causing the damage at such a great distance."
Dr Agarwal, who presented the results today at the American Society for Reproductive Medicine conference in New Orleans, said they were worrying because of the huge extent of mobile phone use.
"Almost a billion people are using cell phones around the world and the number is growing in many countries at 20 to 30 per cent a year," he said. "In another five years the number is going to double.
"People use mobile phones without thinking twice what the consequences may be. It is just like using a toothbrush but mobiles could be having a devastating effect on fertility. It still has to be proved but it could have a huge impact because mobiles are so much part of our lives."
In the study, 361 men who were having their sperm analysed prior to fertility treatment were asked about their mobile use and split into four groups: those who never used a phone and those who used one for less than two hours, two to four hours, and more than four hours a day.
Median sperm counts were measured at 85.89 million per millilitre for non-users, 69.03 for the second group, 58.87 for the third and 50.30 for the fourth. Sperm motility, or swimming ability, also fell with increasing phone use, as did other measures of quality.
"The main finding was that on all four parameters - sperm count, motility, viability and morphology - there were significant differences between the groups," Dr Agarwal said. "The greater the use of cell phones the greater the decrease in these four parameters. That was very clear and very significant."
The results are similar to those of a previous study from the University of Szeged in Hungary, which found a 30 per cent reduction in sperm count among men who kept a mobile on standby in their trouser pockets. That research also failed to control for lifestyle. Such controls are important because sperm production is very sensitive to a number of factors, including obesity and heat: lorry drivers and travelling salesmen, for example, tend to have low sperm counts because the long hours they spend sitting warms their testes.
Dr Agarwal said that if the effect is genuinely caused by mobiles, several explanations are possible. Animal work has shown that electromagnetic fields can damage Leydig cells in the testes and mobiles are also known to cause a heating effect on tissue that might be hazardous to sperm. Both phenomena occur over short distances, so holding a phone at a distance from the crotch while speaking should not be dangerous.
Informant: Iris Atzmon
I am sending you along this article from today's (Tuesday, 24 October, 2006) IRISH INDEPENDENT.
Best, Imelda, Cork
IRISH INDEPENDENT. TUESDAY, 24 OCTOBER, 2006
MOBILE PHONES ARE DAMAGING MEN'S SPERM PRODUCTION: TALKING FOR FOUR HOURS A DAY COULD MAKE YOU INFERTILE, SCIENTISTS WARN
Jeremy Laurance in New Orleans
(Mobile phones may be causing widespread damage to sperm production in men with potentially devastating consequences for global fertility rates, a study suggests. Microwaves emitted by the phones reduce the number, mobility and quality of sperm by almost half in the heaviest users, to the point where some men may become infertile, scientists say. Almost a billion people around the world are using mobile phones and the number is growing fast. Even a small effect on fertility caused by their use could result in millions of men being rendered childless. Concern has grown about the effects of mobile phones for a decade, but very little hard evidence of the dangers has been presented. Scientists from the Reproductive Research Centre at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation, Ohio, tested the sperm of 364 men who were being investigated for infertility with their partners. They found that men who were the heaviest users of mobile phones - more than four hours a day - had the lowest sperm counts at 50 million per millilitre and the least healthy sperm, judged by its mobility and the proportion of abnormal sperm. In contrast, sperm counts were highest (86 million per ml), and the sperm healthiest, among those men who reported that they did not use mobile phones. All men produce a high proportion of sperm that are abnormal - including the fertile - but in the heaviest mobile users the 'normal' sperm fell to 18pc compared with 40pc in those who never used mobiles. Professor Ashok Agarwal, who led the study, said: "On all four parameters - sperm count, mobility, viability and morphology - there were significant differences between the groups. The greater the use of mobile phones, the greater the decrease in these parameters." "People use mobile phones without thinking what the consequences may be, but mobiles could be having a devastating effect on fertility. It still has to be proved but it could have a huge impact because mobiles are so much part of our lives," he said. Among the heaviest users in the study, with an average sperm count of 50 million per ml, well below the threshold set by the World Health Organisation which defines infertility, Prof Agarwal said. The findings, presented to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine in New Orleans yesterday, will spark renewed concern about the safety of mobile phones, which have been linked with a range of ill effects from headaches to cancer. However, critics said the effects would only be felt by men who carried phones in their pockets or on their laps, close to their testes, while they made calls.
(Copyright Independent News Service)
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IS THERE A RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN CELL PHONE USE AND SEMEN QUALITY?