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Since its birth in 1973, the cell phone's popularity has skyrocketed to approximately 7 billion global users (1). People rely on their cell phones for everything from its primary use- communication- to entertainment. We talk on our phones, about our phones, and even to our phones (“Hey Siri.” “Ok, Google”). I bet there is a pretty solid chance you’re either reading this on your phone, or within a one foot radius of your phone. They’ve become all-consuming.
That being said, we often hear news stories the on dangerous health effects of cell phone use. Today, we’re going to focus specifically on infertility in men due to cell phone use. Are all the news stories true- does carrying your cell phone around cause infertility? Let’s discuss.
Cell Phone Use & Infertility
Exhibit 1: Center for Reproductive Medicine, Cleveland Clinic, Hamada, Singh, and Agarwal
Sperm Motility, Viability, and Count:
- Wdowiak et al. did a retrospective study on 304 men, noting that 65.7% of men who did not handle cell phones had normal sperm motility, while only 17% of men who used their phone regularly for over 2 years had normal motility (2).
- Agarwal et al. studied the semen samples of 32 men, exposing them to RF-EMW radiation. The oxidative stress decreased the movement and quality of sperm (2,3).
- Fejes et al. analyzed 231 men during a 13 month period. Those who frequently used cell phones had sperm counts 30% lower than those who did not use a cell phone at all (2).
Exhibit 2: University of Utah Healthcare, James M. Hotaling, M.D.,M.S.
This expert in male fertility and andrology refutes claims stating that cell phone handling can cause infertility in men. Hotaling says that participants are frequently selected from fertility clinics, demonstrating selection bias (4).
According to an article released by the Office of Public Affairs at the University of Utah Healthcare, Hotaling states: ‘“ Sperm count varies all the time, meaning from hour to hour, day to day, month to month’” (4). He believes that sperm quality needs to be monitored for an extended period of time for accurate data collection.
The results? Pretty mixed. What we do know is that there is always a risk when it comes to cell phone use. Though not all researchers agree entirely on the extent of the impact, some studies point to a decrease in sperm quality and motility in cell phone users. Meanwhile, others believe sperm count is dependent on timing and that experiments were poorly conducted.
So, when your friend purposely puts his phone in his front pocket and gives you a thumbs up, you gently remind him that cell phone use does not count as a birth control method.