Assessment of reproductive disorders and birth defects in communities near hazardous chemical sites. III. Guidelines for field studies of male reproductive disorders.
Exposures to environmental toxicants can have detrimental effects on several aspects of human male reproduction: fertility, sexual function, hormone status, and pregnancy/birth outcomes. However, no simple prescreening methods are available for reliably identifying potential hazards; questionnaires alone are relatively imprecise and inefficient in the absence of field data. Multidisciplinary field studies are required that include detailed exposure information, health and reproductive histories, physical examinations, semen analyses, and possibly, hormone analyses. Semen analysis is a critical component of field studies for evaluating two aspects of male reproduction: 1) changes in sperm or seminal content, which may be indicative of adverse effects on the male reproductive system with possible implications for fertility potential; and 2) defects in sperm DNA or chromosomes, which may be associated with subsequent changes in viability during embryonic development and health risks to the offspring. Semen analyses may be tiered: 1) initially, each semen study may include conventional semen assays (concentration, motility, and morphology) as well as specific biomarkers indicated by the health effect of concern in the study cohort: and 2) archived samples (i.e., frozen, videotaped, or smeared) may be utilized in later second-tier analyses to further characterize specific findings. Before initiating any field study, it is cost effective to critically evaluate the suitability of the cohort by confirming exposure and determining that there are adequate numbers of male participants in each exposure category. Such evaluations must be based on the statistical sensitivities of the specific tissue biomarkers and health endpoints for detecting changes. This article summarizes the components of the ideal field study and identifies research needs for improving field studies of male effects and for understanding the mechanisms of male reproductive toxicity. Several promising semen methods currently under development are also discussed.
Wyrobek, AJ; Schrader, SM; Perreault, SD; Fenster, L; Huszar, G; Katz, DF; Osorio, AM; Sublet, V; Evenson, D
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