Have you ever wondered if the sperm quality Is it affected by electromagnetic waves from our mobile phones? Well now you can know the answer because a team of researchers from the University of Geneva (UNIGE), in collaboration with the Swiss Institute of Tropical and Public Health (Swiss TPH), has carried out an important study on this topic, which shows that the use continued use of mobile phones is associated with a decreased sperm concentration, while its mobility and morphology are not affected. The findings have been published in Fertility and Sterility.
The semen quality It is determined by aspects such as the number of sperm, their morphology and mobility, and a low sperm count in a semen sample – less than 15 million per milliliter of sperm – makes conception difficult, while the chances of achieving a pregnancy also decrease. They reduce when this concentration is less than 40 million per milliliter.
Researchers point out that in the last 50 years sperm quality has decreased in industrialized countries and that it is estimated that the number of sperm has decreased from an average of 99 million sperm per milliliter to 47 million per milliliter, due to a combination of environmental factors (endocrine disruptors, pesticides, atmospheric pollution, radiation) and lifestyle habits (inappropriate diet, alcohol, tobacco, stress…).
How smartphones influence semen quality
But are smartphones also responsible for this? After carrying out the first national study (2019) on the quality of sperm of young people in Switzerland, a team from the University of Geneva (UNIGE) has carried out the most relevant cross-sectional research on this topic, which is based on data from 2,886 Swiss men between 18 and 22 years old, selected between 2005 and 2018 in six military recruitment centers in the country.
Mean sperm concentration was significantly higher in men who did not use their phones more than once a week compared to those who used their phones more than 20 times a day.
In collaboration with the Swiss Institute of Tropical and Public Health (Swiss TPH), the scientists investigated the association between the participants’ sperm parameters and their mobile phone use. “They responded to a detailed questionnaire about their lifestyles, general health and how often they use their phones, as well as where they place them when not in use,” he noted. Serge Nefordinary professor at the Department of Medicine and Genetic Development at the UNIGE Faculty of Medicine and the Swiss Center for Applied Human Toxicology, who co-led the study.
These data allowed us to establish a correlation between high cell phone use and lower sperm concentration. The mean sperm concentration was significantly higher in the group of men who did not use their phones more than once a week (56.5 Mio/mL) compared to men who used their phones more than 20 times a day (44 .5 Mio/mL). This difference corresponds to a 21% decrease in sperm concentration in frequent users (>20 times/day) compared to infrequent users (<1 time).
4G versus 2G and phone location
This inverse association was most pronounced during the first study period (2005-2007) and gradually decreased over time (2008-2011 and 2012-2018). This trend corresponds to the change from 2G to 3G, and then from 3G to 4G, which resulted in a reduction in the transmission power of phones, explains Martin Rosli, associate professor at the Swiss TPH.
“Previous studies evaluating the relationship between mobile phone use and sperm quality involved a relatively small number of individuals, rarely included lifestyle information, and were subject to selection bias because participants were recruited in clinics.” of fertility, so the results are not considered conclusive,” explained Rita Rahban, assistant professor in the Department of Genetic Medicine and Development of the UNIGE Faculty of Medicine, as well as at SCAHT, first author and co-director of the study.
Analysis of this data also seems to show that the position of the phone in the pants pocket, for example, is not associated with lower sperm parameters in the samples taken. “However, in this cohort, the number of people who said they did not carry their phones close to the body “It was too low to reach a relevant conclusion on this specific point,” adds Rita Rahban.
One of the limits of this study is that it was based on self-reported data. In 2023, new research funded by the Federal Environment Office (OFEV) has begun, with the aim of precisely and directly measuring exposure to electromagnetic waves, types of use, calls, internet browsing and sending messages and evaluating their impact on the male reproductive health. These data will be recorded through an application that each of the future participants will download to their smartphone.