Environmental exposure to metals and male reproductive hormones: circulating testosterone is inversely associated with blood molybdenum

Fertil Steril. 2010 Jan;93(1):130-40. doi: 10.1016/j.fertnstert.2008.09.044. Epub 2008 Nov 6.


Objective: To explore associations between exposure to metals and male reproductive hormone levels.

Design: Cross-sectional epidemiology study with adjustment for potential confounders.

Setting: University Medical Center.

Patient(s): Men recruited through two infertility clinics in Michigan.

Intervention(s): Metal concentrations and reproductive hormone levels were measured in blood samples collected from 219 men.

Main outcome measure(s): Serum FSH, LH, inhibin B, T, and sex hormone-binding globulin levels.

Result(s): Cadmium, copper, and lead were all significantly or suggestively positively associated with T when modeled individually, findings that are consistent with limited previous human and animal studies. Conversely, molybdenum was associated with reduced T. A significant inverse trend between molybdenum and T remained when additionally considering other metals in the model, and a positive association between T and zinc was also found. Finally, in exploratory analysis there was evidence for an interaction between molybdenum and zinc, whereby high molybdenum was associated with a 37% reduction in T (relative to the population median level) among men with low zinc.

Conclusion(s): Although reductions in T and reproductive toxicity after molybdenum exposure have been previously demonstrated in animal studies, more research is needed to determine whether molybdenum poses a risk to human reproductive health.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Environmental Pollutants / adverse effects
  • Environmental Pollutants / blood*
  • Follicle Stimulating Hormone, Human / blood
  • Humans
  • Inhibins / blood
  • Linear Models
  • Luteinizing Hormone / blood
  • Male
  • Metals / adverse effects
  • Metals / blood*
  • Michigan
  • Molybdenum / adverse effects
  • Molybdenum / blood*
  • Reproduction / drug effects*
  • Risk Assessment
  • Sex Hormone-Binding Globulin / analysis
  • Testosterone / blood*
  • Zinc / blood


  • Biomarkers
  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Follicle Stimulating Hormone, Human
  • Metals
  • Sex Hormone-Binding Globulin
  • inhibin B
  • Testosterone
  • Inhibins
  • Molybdenum
  • Luteinizing Hormone
  • Zinc