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Male Infertility Associated With Mortality

Update Date: May 16, 2014 09:40 AM EDT

Men who are infertile because of defective semen are at the increased risk of dying sooner than men with normal semen, according to a new study. 

The research led by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine found that men with two or more abnormalities in their semen were more than twice as likely to die over around eight-year period as men who had normal semen.

Smoking and diabetes - either of which doubles mortality risk - both get a lot of attention, noted the study's lead author, Michael Eisenberg, MD, PhD, assistant professor of urology and Stanford's director of male reproductive medicine and surgery, in the press release. "But here we're seeing the same doubled risk with male infertility, which is relatively understudied."

Infertility is a widespread medical complaint, especially in the developed countries. Statistically, one in seven couples is affected at some point. 

The study is first in United States that addressees the question of connection between male infertility and mortality. 

Researchers examined the records of men ages 20 to 50 who had visited one of two centers to be evaluated for possible infertility. 

"We were able to determine with better than 90 percent accuracy who died during that follow-up time," Eisenberg said. "There was an inverse relationship. In the years following their evaluation, men with poor semen quality had more than double the mortality rate of those who didn't."

The study concluded that the greater the number of abnormalities, the higher is mortality rate. 

"It's plausible that, even though we didn't detect it, infertility may be caused by pre-existing general health problems," Eisenberg said in the press release. "The true cause of increased mortality risk, then, would be not infertility per se, but those health problems."

"But we controlled for this factor as best we could, and while that did attenuate the measured risk somewhat, there seems to be something else going on. Could it be genetic, developmental or hormonal factors? Or could it be that something about the experience of having and raising kids - even though you may sometimes feel like they're killing you - actually lowers mortality?"

The study will be published online in the Human Reproduction. 

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