If you carry a cellphone in your pocket, you may have heard that it can zap sperm and lead to infertility. Not so fast, a University of Utah doctor says.
Research published in the journal Environment International analyzed data from 10 previous studies and suggested that sperm's mobility, or its ability to move normally toward an egg to fertilize it, appears to fall by an average of 8% when a man is exposed to electromagnetic radiation from mobile phones.
In men who were not exposed to cellphones, 50% to 85% of their sperm achieved normal mobility. A similar effect was noted with regard to viability, or the proportion of sperm that are alive.
The study's lead author, Fiona Mathews, of the biosciences department at the University of Exeter in England, suggests that carrying a phone in a pants pocket can negatively affect sperm quality. "This could be particularly important for men already on the borderline of infertility," she says in a press release.
Should You Stop Carrying a Cellphone in Your Pocket?
An estimated 10 percent to 15 percent of couples trying to conceive in the United States are infertile. Could cellphones in pants pockets bear some of the blame?
James M. Hotaling, MD, MS, an expert in male fertility and andrology at University of Utah Health, cautions against jumping to that conclusion.
"I've never seen conclusive data that would lead me to advise a patient against carrying a cellphone in his pocket," Hotaling says, noting several possible flaws to previous studies looking at the link between male fertility and cellphone exposure. For instance, participants are typically selected from a fertility clinic, which introduces a selection bias.
He also points out that "sperm count varies all the time, meaning from hour to hour, day to day, month to month." To truly achieve a representative sample, men's sperm quality would need to be monitored for a long time.
Rather than focus on the insignificant variable of cellphone use, Hotaling says it's more important to look at other, more easily modifiable factors when it comes to determining male fertility. Diet and exercise are two such examples.
But age matters most. "People are waiting until later in life to conceive, so infertility is on the rise," he says.