Effect of mobile telephones on sperm quality: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Environ Int. 2014 Sep;70:106-12. doi: 10.1016/j.envint.2014.04.015. Epub 2014 Jun 10.

Abstract

Mobile phones are owned by most of the adult population worldwide. Radio-frequency electromagnetic radiation (RF-EMR) from these devices could potentially affect sperm development and function. Around 14% of couples in high- and middle-income countries have difficulty conceiving, and there are unexplained declines in semen quality reported in several countries. Given the ubiquity of mobile phone use, the potential role of this environmental exposure needs to be clarified. A systematic review was therefore conducted, followed by meta-analysis using random effects models, to determine whether exposure to RF-EMR emitted from mobile phones affects human sperm quality. Participants were from fertility clinic and research centres. The sperm quality outcome measures were motility, viability and concentration, which are the parameters most frequently used in clinical settings to assess fertility. We used ten studies in the meta-analysis, including 1492 samples. Exposure to mobile phones was associated with reduced sperm motility (mean difference -8.1% (95% CI -13.1, -3.2)) and viability (mean difference -9.1% (95% CI -18.4, 0.2)), but the effects on concentration were more equivocal. The results were consistent across experimental in vitro and observational in vivo studies. We conclude that pooled results from in vitro and in vivo studies suggest that mobile phone exposure negatively affects sperm quality. Further study is required to determine the full clinical implications for both sub-fertile men and the general population.

Keywords: Fertility; Mobile or cell phone; Radiofrequency electromagnetic radiation; Sperm concentration; Sperm motility; Sperm viability.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Cell Phone*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Radio Waves / adverse effects*
  • Semen Analysis
  • Sperm Motility / radiation effects
  • Spermatozoa / cytology
  • Spermatozoa / radiation effects*