Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Sperm and Cellphones

A new study is making the rounds and the media is having a field day with making claims that the study doesn't make, even in the slightest. It's about RF-EMR and sperm quality.

Despite the headlines:
No, cell phones do not cause cancer
No, cell phone radiation does not damage DNA
No, cell phones are not super-heating and cooking sperm

The actual conclusion: "Our analyses indicate negative associations between mobile phone exposure on sperm viability and motility. The effects on concentration are more equivocal. Further research is required to quantify these effects more precisely and to evaluate the clinical importance of the risk to both sub-fertile men and the general population." http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0160412014001354 (note that most of the articles reporting this did not link to the article, thus making it really difficult for the average person to find out the reality)
You'll note that the effect on concentration is equivocal. This means ambiguous or uncertain. So really no conclusions can be drawn.

They acknowledge the limit of the 27 studies they reviewed: "Additional studies, particularly those which assess viability and other sperm parameters, including morphology and subcellular sperm damage such as sperm DNA integrity (not assessed during conventional semen analyses), are required. This would improve the precision of the estimated effect sizes, and allow better judgement of the likely clinical importance of the findings."

They also admit that cell phones have fluctuating SARs. This makes any long term exposure predictions sketchy.

At the beginning of the study, they said 14% of couples in high/middle income countries have problem with conceiving a child. Of that 40% is due to male infertility. Thus that is 5.6% of couples have problems due to male infertility. How much of that 5.6% is unexplained, I am unsure. One study (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0160412014001354#bb0095…) that they link to states: "Sperm motility is estimated to be approximately 8% lower in exposed than non-exposed groups. Alone, the clinical importance of an effect of this size may be limited to subfertile men or those at the lower-end of the normal spectrum." This means the this low effect correlation would most likely effect men who already had a low sperm motility. Thus the effect, if any, on the average male would be pretty much nil.

So pretty much, any causal link between cell phone radiation and sperm quality is lacking or extremely small. The media/internet's over-hyping and misinterpretation of the information creates needless fear and spread of misinformation. The researchers did a meta-analysis where 3/4 of the studies showed a barely statistically significant correlation and everybody goes insane.

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