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Hypospadias, a birth defect of the male urethra, is not increasing in New York state
Date:6/5/2009

NEW YORK (June 5, 2009) -- In recent decades, there have been periodic reports of a worldwide decline in sperm count and quality. Male infertility has ostensibly been on the rise, accompanied by increases in testicular cancer and hypospadias -- a congenital defect in which the opening of the urethra is on the underside, rather than at the end, of the penis. Taken together, these three conditions have been termed testicular dysgenesis syndrome.

Environmental chemicals known as phthalates, some researchers say, may be the cause of the problem. Used in the manufacture of plastics, phthalates at sufficiently high levels have been seen to interfere with male fetal development. Some studies have found that hypospadias are more prevalent among male infants today than they were 30 years ago.

Now, a team of researchers based at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center and Children's Hospital of Philadelphia have taken a fresh look at the data and have found no rise in rates of hypospadias in New York State from 1992 to 2005. Similar findings have been reported by researchers looking at state-level data in Washington and California.

These studies break the link between the purported cause -- phthalates -- and their presumed effect -- impaired male reproductive health, says Dr. Harry Fisch, director of the Male Reproductive Center at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center and professor of clinical urology at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons.

"It's all in the data," says Dr. Fisch. "For one, the entire method of collecting data on birth defects has changed. Statewide surveillance of birth defects has become the norm. This calls into question the value of the older data.

"Second," he adds, "we can't assume that these chemicals are harmful at low, environmentally allowable levels just because we've seen high rates of exposure to phthalates in utero have been
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Contact: Gloria Chin
glc9010@nyp.org
212-305-5587
New York- Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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