Hatch EE, Willis SK, Wesselink AK, Mikkelsen EM, Eisenberg ML, Sommer GJ, Sorensen HT, Rothman KJ, Wise LA. Male cellular telephone exposure, fecundability, and semen quality: results from two preconception cohort studies. Hum Reprod. 2021 Feb 10. doi: 10.1093/humrep/deab001.


STUDY QUESTION: To what extent is exposure to cellular telephones associated with male fertility?

SUMMARY ANSWER: Overall, we found little association between carrying a cell phone in the front pants pocket and male fertility, although among leaner men (BMI <25 kg/m2), carrying a cell phone in the front pants pocket was associated with lower fecundability.

WHAT IS KNOWN ALREADY: Some studies have indicated that cell phone use is associated with poor semen quality, but the results are conflicting.

STUDY DESIGN, SIZE, DURATION:
Two prospective preconception cohort studies were conducted with men in Denmark (n = 751) and in North America (n = 2349), enrolled and followed via the internet from 2012 to 2020.

PARTICIPANTS/MATERIALS, SETTING, METHODS: On the baseline questionnaire, males reported their hours/day of carrying a cell phone in different body locations. We ascertained time to pregnancy via bi-monthly follow-up questionnaires completed by the female partner for up to 12 months or until reported conception. We used proportional probabilities regression models to estimate fecundability ratios (FRs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) for the association between male cell phone habits and fecundability, focusing on front pants pocket exposure, within each cohort separately and pooling across the cohorts using a fixed-effect meta-analysis. In a subset of participants, we examined selected semen parameters (semen volume, sperm concentration and sperm motility) using a home-based semen testing kit.

MAIN RESULTS AND THE ROLE OF CHANCE:
There was little overall association between carrying a cell phone in a front pants pocket and fecundability: the FR for any front pants pocket exposure versus none was 0.94 (95% CI: 0.0.83-1.05). We observed an inverse association between any front pants pocket exposure and fecundability among men whose BMI was <25 kg/m2 (FR = 0.72, 95% CI: 0.59-0.88) but little association among men whose BMI was ≥25 kg/m2 (FR = 1.05, 95% CI: 0.90-1.22). There were few consistent associations between cell phone exposure and semen volume, sperm concentration, or sperm motility.

LIMITATIONS, REASONS FOR CAUTION: Exposure to radiofrequency radiation from cell phones is subject to considerable non-differential misclassification, which would tend to attenuate the estimates for dichotomous comparisons and extreme exposure categories (e.g. exposure 8 vs. 0 h/day). Residual confounding by occupation or other unknown or poorly measured factors may also have affected the results.

WIDER IMPLICATIONS OF THE FINDINGS:
Overall, there was little association between carrying one's phone in the front pants pocket and fecundability. There was a moderate inverse association between front pants pocket cell phone exposure and fecundability among men with BMI <25 kg/m2, but not among men with BMI ≥25 kg/m2. Although several previous studies have indicated associations between cell phone exposure and lower sperm motility, we found few consistent associations with any semen quality parameters.

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