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Study raises questions about cell phones and infertility
USA Created: 2 Apr 2008
Are men speed-dialing infertility by talking for hours a day on their cell phones?.

A new study suggests that might be the case, but before potential papas ditch the devices, they should know that lead author Ashok Agarwal says the data are "quite preliminary."

Cell phones emit radiofrequency electromagnetic waves. Scientists have reported potential adverse effects of the waves on the brain, heart, endocrine system and DNA, Agarwal, director of the andrology lab at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation, and his co-authors write in the journal Fertility and Sterility.

Agarwal's team studied 361 men under age 40 who were being evaluated for infertility; men whose personal or family history might explain a low count or other sperm abnormalities were excluded.

The scientists divided the patients into four groups, based on how long they said they talked on a cell phone each day. Then they analyzed the men's semen and found a strong association between length of time spent on a cell phone and sperm count and quality. Those who talked more than four hours a day had lower counts and more poor "swimmers" and abnormally formed sperm.

One reason could be the heat generated by the phones; sperm production is sensitive to temperature, Agarwal says.

The researchers didn't ask the men about other potential sources of electromagnetic wave exposure, like laptop computers, or where the men usually kept the phone when they talked. Next to their ear? In a pocket while using a headset? Says Agarwal: "There are hundreds of variables that can affect our conclusions."

Location, location, location makes a big difference, says British infertility specialist Iwan Lewis-Jones, who, like Agarwal, is conducting laboratory studies of cell phones' impact on sperm specimens. "To get an effect, I think you've got to have the phone very close to the sperm."

In research still ongoing, Agarwal says, he has found that sperm quality decreases in semen specimens left sitting next to a phone in talk mode for as little as an hour. Lewis-Jones says he isn't ready to report results from his research, in which phones in talk mode are left next to semen specimens.

"We are not saying that mobile phones affect fertility," he says. "All we're trying to do is see what effect they have on the sperm cell." In other words, he says, changes seen in laboratory experiments probably are not occurring in real life.

The only way to answer that question definitively, he says, is to randomly assign men to use a cell phone or not. But, he says, considering "I don't know anybody who hasn't got a mobile phone now," few men would volunteer to go without one.
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Source: Asbury Park Press, RITA RUBIN, 01 Apr 2008

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