WEDNESDAY, Dec. 5 (HealthDay News) -- Men in France may not be quite as virile as they once were, with a new study suggesting average sperms counts have dropped over the past few decades.
According to the study, the concentration and quality of sperm in French men's semen steadily declined between 1989 and 2005. Semen concentration decreased 32 percent during this 17-year period, and there was a 33 percent drop in the percentage of normally formed sperm.
"To our knowledge, it is the first study concluding a severe and general decrease in sperm concentration and morphology [structure] at the scale of a whole country over a substantial period. This constitutes a serious public health warning. The link with the environment particularly needs to be determined," the French authors wrote.
The study was published online Dec. 5 in the journal Human Reproduction.
The study involved semen samples from 26,600 men who visited one of 126 assisted reproduction technology centers in France. The men's partners were undergoing treatment at the centers for blocked or missing Fallopian tubes, so the couple's infertility was not due to issues with the men's sperm.
Over the course of the study, the researchers found semen concentration among the men decreased at a rate of roughly 1.9 percent each year. Among men averaging 35 years of age, semen concentrations decreased by an average 23.7 million per milliliter to 49.9 million per milliliter between 1989 and 2005.
"The average values we have for 2005 [still] fall within the 'fertile' range for men according to the definition of the World Health Organization," study co-author Dr. Joelle Le Moal said in a news release from the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology.
"However, this is just an average, and there were men in the study who fell beneath the WHO values," added Le Moal, who is an environmental health epidemiologist at the Institut de Veil
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