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The "alarming" worldwide decline of men's sperm counts could "threaten mankind's survival".
That is the verdict of an international research team if the trend is allowed to go unchecked, reports The Express.
Having reviewed more than 200 past studies on the subject from 53 different countries on the planet, the analysts have concluded that the pattern previously seen in Europe, North America and Australia is also reflecting in what is happening globally during the 21st century.
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As well as being an indicator of men's fertility, low sperm counts are also linked to a greater risk of chronic disease, testicular cancer and shorter lifespans.
Study leader and public health expert Professor Hagai Levine, of the Hebrew University, said: "Overall, we’re seeing a significant worldwide decline in sperm counts of over 50% in the past 46 years, a decline that has accelerated in recent years."
While the present study did not examine the causes of the deteriorating sperm counts, Prof Levine added: "Lifestyle choices and chemicals in the environment are adversely affecting foetal development and time is running out. Our findings serve as a canary in a coal mine.
"We have a serious problem on our hands that, if not mitigated, could threaten mankind’s survival. We urgently call for global action to promote healthier environments for all species and reduce exposures and behaviours that threaten our reproductive health."
The researchers analysed 14,233 samples of semen, collected from 2014 to 2019, with data gathered on sperm count trends from regions not previously reviewed, specifically Africa, Asia and South America.
Dr Sarah Martins da Silva, a reproductive medicine expert from the University of Dundee, was not involved in the present study but said the new findings "confirm that sperm counts are falling by around 1.1% per year, with an overall decline of 51.6% in 45 years."
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She added "Of concern, the rate of decline has doubled since 2000. And we genuinely don’t know why.
"Exposure to pollution, plastics, smoking, drugs and prescribed medication, as well as lifestyle, such as obesity and poor diet, have all been suggested to be contributory factors although effects are poorly understood and ill-defined.
“Infertility is a global health problem. Despite an apparently booming population, one out of six couples are estimated to experience difficulties conceiving.
"Male fertility problems are increasingly common and account for almost half of all cases. The human race is not at immediate risk of extinction but we really need research to understand why sperm counts are falling and to prevent other unintended implications for male health."
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- Health issues
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