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Study Hints at Link between Cell Phones, Male Infertility

May 20, 2011 | Parker Waichman LLP

Men looking to start a family might want to consider limiting their cell phone use, especially if they are already faced with a low sperm count, according to the findings of new study.  The findings, which the study authors described as "puzzling", indicated that cell phone use may lower sperm quality and decrease fertility, even while simultaneously increasing the level of testosterone circulating in the body.

The study, which was authored by researchers at Canada’s Queen’s University and the Medical University of Graz, Austria, involved data from 2,000 men collected from 1993 to 2007 at an Austrian infertility clinic.   The men were asked about their cell phone use, and those who used the devices daily were classified as cell phone users.

The data showed that the cell phone user group had lower quality sperm than men who didn’t use cell phones.   Cell phone users also had lower levels of an important reproductive hormone - luteinizing hormone (LH) - that is excreted by the brain's pituitary gland. At the same time, the cell phone users had higher levels of testosterone.

If electromagnetic waves coming from cell phones cause lower levels of luteinizing hormone, that could explain the drop sperm quality.   And despite the higher levels of testosterone seen in the study, its authors surmised that electromagnetic waves may also block the conversion of this basic circulating type of testosterone to the more active, potent form of testosterone associated with sperm production and fertility.

"Our findings were a little bit puzzling," study co-author Rany Shamloul of Queen’s University said in a statement. "We were expecting to find different results, but the results we did find suggest that there could be some intriguing mechanisms at work."

Still, the authors concede that the jury is still out when it comes to possible link between cell phones and male infertility, though more evidence seems to indicate an association.  They pointed to a need for comprehensive, rigorous scientific studies of the issue.

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