Subscribe to the BioNews newsletter for free

Login
Advanced Search

Search for
BioNews

Like the Progress Educational Trust on Facebook


The Fertility Show


 

Western sperm counts fall by half in past 40 years

31 July 2017

By Dr Katie Howe

Appeared in BioNews 911

Sperm counts of men in developed nations have fallen by 52 percent in the last 40 years.

An analysis, which combined the results of 185 studies carried out between 1973 and 2011, also showed that the average sperm concentration had dropped by nearly 60 percent. The reasons for this decline remain unclear.

'This study is an urgent wake-up call for researchers and health authorities around the world,' said Dr Hagai Levine, the study’s lead author and researcher at the Hadassah Braun School of Public Health and Community Medicine, part of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

The research, which was published in the journal Human Reproduction Update, analysed studies encompassing over 42,000 men. After taking account of other influencing factors such as age and time since last ejaculation, the team found that in men from Western countries including Europe, North America and Oceania, average sperm concentration fell from 99 million per ml in 1973 to 47.1 million per ml in 2011, which is below the threshold for fertility. While the study did not examine sperm quality, Dr Levine called this 'particularly concerning'.

The decline in sperm count was not seen for men in other countries, leading some to speculate that environmental factors might be responsible. However the researchers did not look at the causes of the decline, and they also caution that far fewer sperm count studies have been carried out in developing countries.

Male fertility experts have welcomed the study for addressing many concerns regarding previous studies of sperm quality, such as only including studies that counted sperm using modern equipment, and excluding studies that recruited men from fertility clinics. Professor Richard Sharpe of the University of Edinburgh said the study 'is about as close as we are going to get' to being sure that sperm counts are declining.

The research also showed that the rate of decline in sperm counts has continued beyond 1995, indicating that the drop is ongoing. 'The continuous nature of the decline is of as much concern as the decline itself, given that we still do not know what lifestyle, dietary or chemical exposures might have caused this decrease,' added Professor Sharpe.

Experts agreed that more research is needed in this area to identify the underlying cause of the decline. Professor Daniel Brison, scientific director of the Department of Reproductive Medicine, University of Manchester, said 'this has major implications not just for fertility but for male health and wider public health. This study should act as a wake-up call to prompt active research in this area.'

RELATED ARTICLES FROM THE BIONEWS ARCHIVE

16 October 2017 - by Annabel Slater 
An expert in male fertility has called for urgent research into the stark decline reported in Western sperm counts...
09 October 2017 - by Shaoni Bhattacharya 
Researchers hope that a study detailing the four stages of human sperm stem cell development may shed light on infertility and certain cancers...
14 August 2017 - by Professor Allan Pacey 
Twenty-five years ago, I recall sitting in a journal club in which the collective minds tore apart the then recently published (and still much quoted) meta-analysis by Elizabeth Carlsen, 'Evidence for decreasing quality of semen during past 50 years'. This BMJ paper made the headlines in 1992...
07 August 2017 - by Caroline Law 
While media reports regularly remind us of women's biological clocks and warn of the dangers of women leaving it 'too late' to have children, until recently little attention has been paid to the role of men in timing when to have children, and the effect of age on male fertility...

31 October 2016 - by Dr Ashley Cartwright 
The US start-up Episona has produced an epigenetic sperm test, which it claims can determine whether sperm will produce 'good' or 'poor' quality embryos...
13 April 2015 - by Dr Rachael Panizzo 
A recent study suggests that exposure to pesticide residue through diet may affect sperm quality...
06 October 2014 - by Dr Linda Wijlaars 
Drinking more than two pints a week could have negative effects on men's semen quality, a study has found...
07 January 2013 - by Dr Charlotte Warren-Gash 
Global rates of infertility have remained relatively stable between 1990 and 2010, according to a study that compiled data from 277 national surveys in 190 countries....
10 December 2012 - by James Brooks 
Between 1989 and 2005, the sperm count of French men dropped by a third, according to research...

HAVE YOUR SAY
Be the first to have your say.

You need to or  to add comments.

By posting a comment you agree to abide by the BioNews terms and conditions


- click here to enquire about using this story.

Published by the Progress Educational Trust

CROSSING FRONTIERS

Moving the Boundaries of Human Reproduction

Public Conference
London
8 December 2017

Speakers include

Professor Azim Surani

Professor Magdalena Zernicka-Goetz

Professor Robin Lovell-Badge

Sally Cheshire

Professor Guido Pennings

Katherine Littler

Professor Allan Pacey

Dr Sue Avery

Professor Richard Anderson

Dr Elizabeth Garner

Dr Jacques Cohen

Dr Anna Smajdor

Dr Andy Greenfield

Vivienne Parry

Dr Helen O'Neill

Dr César Palacios-González

Philippa Taylor

Fiona Fox

Sarah Norcross


BOOK HERE

Good Fundraising Code

Become a Friend of PET HERE and give the Progress Educational Trust a regular donation