When it comes to sperm counts, French men aren't what they used to be, according to a new study.
Researchers found that between 1989 and 2005, the number of sperm in one milliliter of the average 35-year-old Frenchman's semen fell from about 74 million to about 50 million - a decrease of roughly 32 percent.
"That's certainly within the normal range, but if you think about it, if there continues to be a decrease, we would expect that we'll get into that infertile range," said Grace Centola, president of the Society for Male Reproduction and Urology in Birmingham, Alabama.
And the French aren't the only ones who should be concerned, the researchers said.
"A decline in male reproduction endpoints has been suspected for several decades and is still debated all around the world. Geographical differences have been observed between countries, and between areas inside countries," said Joëlle Le Moal from the Institut de Veille Sanitaire in France, who led the study.
Centola, who wasn't involved with the new research, told Reuters Health she had also found similar results in a group of young sperm donors from Boston in the United States.
For the new study, Le Moal's team used a database of France's 126 fertility clinics that recorded men's semen samples from 1989 through 2005. They then narrowed their study to 26,600 samples provided by men whose female partners were later found to be infertile. That, they say, minimizes the risk the men had a fertility problem.
Over the 16-year period, the researchers found there was about a 2 percent annual decrease in the number of sperm in one milliliter of the average man's semen.
"One would look at that and say it's not all that much. It isn't, but if it's occurring on a yearly basis it can add up," said Centola. "Clearly if this type of decrease continues, we're going to find that we're going to have young men that have low sperm counts," she said.
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