Cellphones and Sperm Health: What’s the Link?

Research suggests your smartphone could be slowing down your sperm. But don’t ditch your mobile just yet.

Bioscientists at the University of Exeter conducted a systematic review of 10 previous studies. The results of nearly 1,500 sperm samples were examined to determine how radio-frequency electromagnetic radiation (RF-EMR) emitted by cellphones affects sperm quality. Sperm quality is measured in three ways: how well sperm can move in the right direction towards an egg (motility), the proportion of living sperm in a sample (viability), and how many sperm are in one unit of semen (concentration).

Approximately 8 percent fewer participants exposed to cellphone radiation had normal sperm motility and viability compared to those who weren’t exposed. It was not clear whether RF-EMR exposure had any effect on concentration. A previous research survey by the Environmental Working Group found that cellphone radiation may compromise sperm through oxidative stress, DNA damage and abnormal sperm morphology (shape and size).

Interesting, But Inconclusive

Robert L. Duhaney, M.D., a board-certified internal medicine physician at Internal Medicine of Addison a Texas Health Physicians Group practice, and on the medical staff at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas, cautions of the preliminary nature of these studies.

“One major limitation of this data is looking at long-term effects,” Dr. Duhaney says. “For instance, how quickly do sperm count and quality rebound once exposure is removed? While the available research does show a decrease in sperm quality linked to cellphone radiation, this doesn’t necessarily mean the men were any less fertile.”

A New Home For Your Phone

However, Dr. Duhaney says it doesn’t hurt to take precautions, especially for men who have low fertility. Findings from previous studies showed men who carried a phone in a hip pocket or on the belt had 11 percent fewer motile sperm than men who kept their cellphones elsewhere. Talking on the phone for more than an hour per day also led to a 17-percent reduction in sperm motility, according to one study.

“I would advise placing cellphones in a back pocket or shirt pocket, if possible,” Dr. Duhaney says. “Sperm health can be affected by a wide range of things, including overall health. To maximize sperm quality, men should eat a nutritious diet, exercise regularly and get a good night’s sleep.”

Worried about fertility? An internal medicine physician can discuss your options and refer you to a fertility specialist, if needed. To find an internal medicine or family medicine physician near you, visit THPG.org.

Physicians employed by Texas Health Physicians Group practice independently and are not employees of the hospital or Texas Health Resources.


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