9 March 2011

Alarming sperm quality decline in Finland

by Kate Melville

Over the last 10 years, Finnish researchers have charted a dramatic decline in both sperm quality and sperm counts in Finnish men. Additionally, cases of testicular cancer are skyrocketing and the scientific community is at a loss as to what could be having such an impact on male reproductive health.

Reporting their findings in the International Journal of Andrology, the University of Turku researchers examined three groups of 19 year old men between the years of 1998 and 2006. They found that men born in the late 1980s had dramatically lower sperm counts than those who were born at the beginning of the 1980s. Specifically:

Men born in 1979 - 227 million
Men born in 1983 - 202 million
Men born in 1987 - 165 million

Research leader Jorma Toppari said that as well as falling sperm counts, the percentage of morphologically normal sperm in samples had declined to less than 10 percent. The younger men also had higher incidences of testicular cancer than the older generations. Toppari notes that the incidence rate is many times higher for Finns born around 1980 compared with men born around 1950.

Toppari laments that the underlying cause for these declines in male fertility remains unknown. He does speculate, however, that such rapid changes strongly indicate environmental factors at work. Endocrine (hormone) disrupting compounds that act during fetal development are one possible culprit. "Our findings further necessitate the efforts to identify reasons for the adverse trends in reproductive health to make preventive measures possible," he concluded.

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Source: International Journal of Andrology