Over the past 5 years, we have more information on the potential impact of cell phones and male fertility. Newer studies have attempted to look at what aspects of cell phone usage may be responsible for the changes seen in sperm count, sperm movement and potential fertility.
Let’s review what we currently know:
- Cell phones emit non-ionizing radiation (electromagnetic waves-EMW)
- This form of energy is not the same as ionizing radiation such as X-rays and radioactive materials.
- Electromagnetic waves may have both thermal and non-thermal effects.
- EMW energy exposure can vary depending on:
- Cell calls: duration, location of phone to body, charging while calling
- Internet and App usage (cellular network and Wi-Fi)
- The EMW radiation output is different with each cell phone model.
- Did you know- even when the cell phone is on and not in use, it still sends out an intermittent signal to connect with nearby cell phone towers.
Some of the Effects of Cell Phone Usage observed in men include:
- Reduced sperm count- total and per unit volume (#/ml)
- Decreased sperm motility (movement): total and progressive
- Reduction in normal sperm morphology (shape) and an increase in sperm DNA fragmentation
- Direct exposure of human sperm in the laboratory to EMW demonstrates reduced motility (movement) and increased damage to the sperm DNA.
- Changes in male hormone levels (testosterone and LH)
- In a 2013 study of 30 men reported a possible link between cell phone usage and erectile dysfunction (ED).
- It appears that men who carry the cell phones closest to their bodies- in their pants pocket or wear on their belt may be at the greatest risk. One study reported a lower sperm count when the cell phone was within 50 cm (19 ½ inches) of the groin area.
- The duration, type and intensity of exposure appear to be important factors. Recent studies have reported that the duration daily cell phone usage (both phone calls and Wi-Fi) can be associated with reduced sperm quality.
Ok, enough science- what does it really mean?
- At this time, a direct association between cell phone usage and male infertility has not been proven.
- Men who plan on actively attempting to father a child in the future or with known male factor infertility should minimize their exposure.
- Given the possible associations between cell phones and the potential adverse effects on the sperm, here are some useful tips:
- Men should limit/avoid carrying their cell phone close to their bodies.
- If carrying the cell phone on your person, turn it off when not in use.
- Utilize the speaker function or a headset.
- Consider texting to reduce exposure to EMW radiation.
- Limit your EMW exposure by using the internet at your desktop.
This article is written by Carmelo Sgarlata, MD, a board certified reproductive endocrinologist with extensive experience in the field of in vitro fertilization and integrative medicine. He joined Oregon Reproductive Medicine in March of 2016 and oversees its new Integrative Medicine practice.