Cryptorchidism, hypospadias, subfertility and testicular germ-cell tumour have been suggested to comprise a testicular dysgenesis syndrome (TDS) based on the premise that each may derive from perturbations of embryonal programming and gonadal development during foetal life. Endocrine-disrupting chemicals have been hypothesized to be associated with these disorders, given the importance of sex steroid hormones in urogenital development and homeostasis. Organochlorines are one such set of compounds which are defined as containing between one and ten covalently bonded chlorine atoms. These compounds are persistent pollutants with long half-lives, accumulate in adipose tissue when ingested, bioaccumulate and biomagnify, and have complex and variable toxicological profiles. Examples of organochlorines include dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane and its metabolites, polychlorinated biphenyls, and chlordane. In this comprehensive review of human epidemiologic studies which have tested for associations between organochlorines and facets of TDS, we find evidence for associations between the exposures p,p'-DDE, cis-nonachlor and trans-nonachlor with testicular germ-cell tumour. The sum of the evidence from human epidemiological studies does not indicate any association between specific organochlorines studied and cryptorchidism, hypospadias or fertility. Many other endocrine-disrupting chemicals, including additional organochlorines, have yet to be assessed in relation to disorders associated with TDS, yet study of such chemicals has strong scientific merit given the relevance of such hypotheses to urogenital development.
© 2011 The Authors. International Journal of Andrology © 2011 European Academy of Andrology.