Smoking Reduces a Man's Fertility

If you're thinking of fathering a child, don't smoke, experts advise

MONDAY, Oct. 17, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- Smoking can reduce fertility in men, and the more one smokes, the more the ability of sperm to bind to an egg is diminished, a new study finds.

Researchers studied the sperm of 18 men who had smoked at least four cigarettes a day for more than two years. Using a test called the Hemizona Assay, the scientists compared sperm function in the 18 smokers with the sperm of nonsmokers.

The researchers found that the sperm from almost two-thirds of the smokers failed the test. Although none was infertile, their sperm function was greatly reduced.

"All of them had a little fertilizing capacity," said lead researcher Loni Burkman, head of the Section on Andrology in the Department of Gynecology and Obstetrics at the University at Buffalo School of Medicine. "I wouldn't call them sterile, but they've lost fertilizing capacity."

"Tobacco changes the body because it mimics a natural chemical in the body -- acetylcholine," added Burkman, who developed the Hemizona Assay. "Many of the smokers had only 25 percent of the binding capacity of a control."

Burkman's team also found that the more one smoked, the more the binding capacity was compromised. "The bigger your load, the worse the binding effect," she said.

"If I'm a guy who wants to have children, and I'm serious about it, I need to get to a quit-smoking group," Berkman said. "It takes at least two-and-a-half months after you quit before you will see a change in the sperm."

The study findings were presented Monday at the American Society of Reproductive Medicine annual meeting in Montreal.

Smoking also affects women's reproduction, Burkman said. "Men and women have to be serious about changing their smoking habit to bring their reproductive function somewhere close to normal," she said.

One expert agrees that smoking contributes to fertility problems.

"This study confirms what's known," said Dr. Jamie Grifo, director of reproductive endocrinology at New York University Medical Center in New York City.

"If you're smoking and you're infertile, you better stop smoking, because you're not helping your chances," Grifo said. "It's just one of the negative impacts that smoking has on the human body, and it's another reason why one shouldn't smoke."

More information

The American Society of Reproductive Medicine can tell you more about male infertility.

SOURCES: Loni Burkman, Ph.D., associate professor and head, Section on Andrology, Department of Gynecology and Obstetrics, University at Buffalo School of Medicine, New York; Jamie Grifo, M.D., Ph.D., director, reproductive endocrinology, New York University Medical Center, New York City; Oct. 17, 2005, presentation, American Society of Reproductive Medicine annual meeting, Montreal
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