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Israeli study finds ‘alarming decline’ in sperm count among Western men

Dr. Hagai Levine, the study’s lead author and Head of the Environmental Health Track at the Hebrew University-Hadassah Braun School of Public Health and Community Medicine, in the Hebrew University’s Faculty of Medicine
Hebrew University
Sperm count may serve as a 'canary in the coal mine' signaling broader risks to male health, noted the study

Sperm count in western men has definitively and alarmingly decreased with no sign of “leveling off,” revealed a recent study on the first-ever meta-analysis of trends in sperm counts, conducted by researchers from the Hebrew University’s Hadassah Braun School of Public Health and Community Medicine and the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

The study found that from 1973 to 2011 there was an “alarming decline” of over 50 percent in both sperm concentration and total sperm count among men from Western countries, not selected by their fertility status.

Sperm count is the best measure of male fertility, but according to recent findings low sperm count could also be a predictor of morbidity and mortality.

Influences on sperm count could be lifestyle and environmental factors including prenatal chemical exposure, exposure to pesticides as an adult, as well as stress, smoking, and obesity.

“These findings have wide implications for public health,” said Dr. Hagai Levine, the lead researcher and head of the Environmental Health Track at Hebrew University-Hadassah Braun school of Public Health and Community Medicine.

“This study is an urgent wake up call to investigate the causes of the sharp ongoing drop in sperm count with the goal of prevention.”

Declines in sperm count have been reported since the early 90’s, but the accuracy of previous studies have been contested due to past limitations.

According to a statement from the Hebrew University, the latest study uses broader and far more rigorous methods.

“By screening 7,500 studies and conducting a meta-regression analysis on 185 studies between 1973 and 2011, the researchers found a 52.4 percent decline in sperm concentration, and a 59.3 percent decline in total sperm count, among men from North America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand who were not selected based on their fertility status,” read the statement

“Decreasing sperm count has been of great concern since it was first reported twenty-five years ago," said Dr. Shanna H Swan, a professor in the Department of Environmental Medicine and Public Health at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York.

"This definitive study shows, for the first time, that this decline is strong and continuing. The fact that the decline is seen in Western countries strongly suggests that chemicals in commerce are playing a causal role in this trend."

Sperm count may reflect the impact of the modern environment and serve as a "canary in the coal mine" signaling broader risks to male health, noted the study.

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