Study investigates the link between the use of mobile phones and semen quality

A large study covering more than a decade of data on the effects of mobile phones on semen quality of young men.

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About one in six couples experience infertility. The male partner is responsible for around half of the clinical causes of infertility; nevertheless, the etiology of poor semen quality is still poorly understood.

In recent decades, there has been a notable decrease in sperm. However, the potential explanations remain unclear. Numerous lifestyle and environmental factors, such as obesity, alcohol intake, smoking, and psychological stress, have been linked to this reduction.

A recent study by UNIGE and the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute (Swiss TPH) examines the relationship between semen characteristics and mobile phone exposure. This extensive study examines the impact of mobile phones on young men’s semen quality over more than ten years.

It demonstrates that a reduced total sperm count and sperm concentration are linked to frequent mobile phone use. Scientists could not discover any correlation between poor sperm motility and morphology and using a cell phone, though.

The largest cross-sectional study on the quality of young men’s semen in Switzerland has been released by a team from the University of Geneva (UNIGE), following the first national study on the subject in 2019. Based on data collected from 2886 Swiss men between 18 and 22, it was created at six military conscription centers between 2005 and 2018.

Working together with the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute (Swiss TPH), researchers examined the relationship between 2886 men’s semen parameters and their mobile phone usage. Men answered a thorough questionnaire on their lifestyle choices, overall health, and, in particular, how often they used their phones and where they kept them when not in use.

These findings showed a link between regular use and decreased sperm concentration. Men who did not use their phones more than once a week had a median sperm concentration of much greater (56.5 million/mL) than men who used their phones more than 20 times a day (44.5 million/mL). In comparison to infrequent users (<1 time>), this difference translates to a 21% drop in sperm concentration for frequent users (>20 times/day).

Martin RÖÖsli, associate professor at Swiss TPH, said, “This inverse association was found to be more pronounced in the first study period (2005-2007) and gradually decreased with time (2008-2011 and 2012-2018). This trend corresponds to the transition from 2G to 3G, and then from 3G to 4G, which has led to a reduction in the transmitting power of phones.”

Rita Rahban, senior researcher and teaching assistant in the Department of Genetic Medicine and Development in the Faculty of Medicine at the UNIGE, said“Previous studies evaluating the relationship between the use of mobile phones and semen quality were performed on a relatively small number of individuals, rarely considering lifestyle information, and have been subject to selection bias, as they were recruited in fertility clinics. This has led to inconclusive results.”

Additionally, data analysis appears to indicate that lower semen characteristics were not linked to the phone’s location, such as in a trouser pocket. Nevertheless, there were not enough participants in this cohort who reported not carrying their phones near their bodies to form a strong judgment on this particular issue.

Journal Reference:

  1. Rita Rahban, Alfred Senn, Serge Nef, Martin Rӧӧsli. Association between self-reported mobile phone use and the semen quality of young men. Fertility & Sterility. DOI: 10.1016/j.fertnstert.2023.09.009