Science Pick: More Evidence of Declining Sperm Quality.

Karin Gunther Russ, MS, RN
Coordinator of the Fertility and Reproductive Health Working Group

The role that environment plays in male fertility has been debated over the years.  A landmark study by Dr. Carlsen et al in 1992 demonstrated an approximately 50% decline in sperm counts in Danish military recruits over a 50 year period. Dr. Jorgensen and colleagues published a study this summer showing sperm counts in Danish men have increased somewhat in recent years, but are still significantly lower than sperm counts in a population of infertile men in Denmark studied in the 1940s. This new study again gives reason for concern about trends in male fertility. Looking at data from Israeli sperm banks, the authors found the average sperm concentration dropped from ~106 million spermatozoa/ml to ~68 million/ ml over the study period. The authors state: “The rapid deterioration of sperm quality among fertile semen donors is alarming and may lead to cessation of sperm donation programs.”

Haimov-Kochman R, Har-Nir R, Ein-Mor E, Ben-Shoshan V, Greenfield C, Eldar I, Bdolah Y, Hurwitz A. Is the quality of donated semen deteriorating? Findings from a 15 year longitudinal analysis of weekly sperm samples. Israel Medical Association Journal. 2012. Jun;14(6):372-7.

From the abstract: Studies suggest that global semen quality is declining, but the debate remains open owing to geographic variation. This study evaluates temporal trends of sperm parameters—namely concentration, motility and total motile sperm count—in sperm donated during the period 1995-2009 in Israel. Despite the lowering of criteria for sperm parameters satisfactory for donation that were implemented in 2004, 38% of applicants for sperm donation are now rejected based on semen quality.