Male Infertility and Cellular Phones
Infertility rates are higher than ever, as is usage of cell phones. Yet, in the scientific literature, it is widely accepted and unanimously agreed on that electromagnetic radiation from mobile phones harms male sperm in many different ways.
By: Eleni Roumeliotou
Male Infertility: We are probably living in the prime time of cellular phones; it’s practically impossible to find a person without (at least) one. Surely, mobile phone manufacturers couldn’t be happier! One thing is certain: the vast majority of the population in the world keep near their body, for the greatest part of the day and/or night, a device that constantly emits radiofrequency electromagnetic fields (RF-EMF) at 900 MHz, to which we are inevitably (and perhaps without our consent/knowledge) exposed to. While many of us carry the phone in a purse or bag, others, especially men, carry their phone in their trousers pockets, which is really close to the reproductive organs and glands. The obvious question is “Is this healthy?” With infertility rates reaching record highs, this simple question is worth investigating.
One of the most well-studied effects of mobile phone radiation is that on sperm quality and motility. There are several in vitro studies, which essentially involve placing semen samples right next to a cell phone and examining the effects of the electromagnetic radiation on spermatozoa and then comparing to samples that are away from the cell phone. The first study of its kind, found that just five minutes of exposure to cell phone radiation had a remarkable effect on the motility of sperm . The samples that were next to the mobile phone had a higher percentage of sperm with low or zero motility, compared to the control samples that were positioned far away from the phone. A similar study confirms the findings regarding sperm motility and adds that mobile phone radiation also affects negatively the DNA in the sperm . More specifically, samples located near the cell phone had a significant increase in DNA damage (fragmentation). The authors of the study also measured the expression of a specific gene (CLU), which is over-produced in tissues undergoing stress and unsurprisingly, there was significant overexpression of the gene and increased amounts of the protein it encodes in the samples exposed to electromagnetic radiation.
Going one step further, a recent study published in the International Journal of Andrology found that 1 hour exposure to cell phone altered sperm morphology and most importantly the sperm binding capacity was significantly reduced. The morphological changes included reduction in sperm head area and acrosome percentage area. [The acrosome is a cap-like structure covering the sperm head, which contains digestive enzymes that break down the egg membrane, known as the acrosome reaction, therefore facilitating fertilization]. Essentially this study is showing that when sperm is near mobile phones, one of the most critical steps for conception is sabotaged, that is the ability of sperm to break through the egg membranes. It is interesting that in all the above studies, the amount of time that sperm was exposed to mobile phone radiation is only a small fraction of the time that most men keep their mobile close to their body.
There are many more studies confirming the above results, but listing them may create the false impression that cell phones have negative effects on sperm only when they are kept very near the reproductive organs and glands. Apparently the effect of these devices is much more powerful than originally thought. From assessing the overall mobile phone usage of men undergoing infertility evaluation in a specialized clinic, researchers from Cleveland, Ohio found that as the duration of daily phone usage increased, sperm quality decreased significantly .Like the in vitro studies examined above, this study found that mean sperm motility, viability and morphology were affected by cell phone usage, meaning that the quality of the sperm was affected in many different ways. The greater exposure to electromagnetic radiation resulted in more significant drop in all three parameters of sperm quality. This finding suggests that we don’t necessarily need to keep the mobile phones attached to our body in order to experience the negative effects – simply using it is enough.
The topic of sperm quality and cell phones is probably one of the few in scientific literature that all reviews are in perfect agreement – radiofrequency electromagnetic fields are just bad for sperm and fertility [5,6]. There is high quality evidence that leaves little room to doubt that cell phones are slowly stealing away male reproductive capacity. Of course it would be unreasonable to claim that this is the only reason why male fertility is low. There are several endocrine disruptors and common environmental toxins, for which there is sufficient evidence that they affect negatively male hormones and therefore the reproductive system. Cell phones is just a piece in the puzzle, yet, admittedly an important and large one.
 Effects of electromagnetic radiation from a cellular phone on human sperm motility: an in vitro study. Arch Med Res. 2006 Oct;37(7):840-3. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/
 In vitro effect of cell phone radiation on motility, DNA fragmentation and clusterin gene expression in human sperm. Int J Fertil Steril. 2015 Apr-Jun;9(1):129-36. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/
 The effect of pulsed 900-MHz GSM mobile phone radiation on the acrosome reaction, head morphometry and zona binding of human spermatozoa. Int J Androl. 2011 Feb;34(1):20-6. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/
 Effect of cell phone usage on semen analysis in men attending infertility clinic: an observational study.Fertil Steril. 2008 Jan;89(1):124-8. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/
 Effect of mobile telephones on sperm quality: a systematic review and meta-analysis.Environ Int. 2014 Sep;70:106-12. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/
 Are men talking their reproductive health away? Asian J Androl. 2015 May-Jun;17(3):433-4. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/
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