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Study: Men's Tobacco Chewing May Harm Sperm

Pattern Seen in Men at Infertility Clinic in India
By
WebMD Health News

Sept. 16, 2005 -- A new study notes a possible link between tobacco chewing and sperm problems.

Infertile men "should be counseled about the adverse effects of tobacco chewing on sperm," write the researchers in Fertility and Sterility.

Chewing Tobacco and Sperm

The study included 638 men at an infertility clinic in Mumbai, India. All of the men had been tobacco chewers for four to 10 years.

"A large population of Indian men is addicted to tobacco chewing," write the researchers.

The men were split into three groups based on their tobacco chewing habits:

  • Mild: Chewing tobacco less than three times daily.
  • Moderate: Chewing tobacco three to six times daily.
  • Severe: Chewing tobacco more than six times daily.

Men in the "severe" tobacco chewing group had the fewest, worst quality sperm. The more tobacco the men chewed, the poorer their sperm were, the study shows.

The study didn't include any men who weren't tobacco chewers. Thus, the researchers can't say that it's actually the chewing tobacco for sure that caused the sperm problems.

The scientists who worked on the study included Ashok Agarwal, PhD, HCLD. Agarwal works at the Center for Advanced Research in Human Reproduction, Infertility, and Sexual Function at The Cleveland Clinic's Glickman Urological Institute.

Other Factors?

The study didn't pinpoint why the men were infertile. In India, tobacco chewing is more common among disadvantaged people, the researchers note.

Hardship can affect health in many ways; tobacco chewing probably doesn't paint the whole picture.

"Men addicted to tobacco chewing also have the least access to infertility medical services," write the researchers.

Efforts should be made to "direct the attention of the general public towards the possible relationship between tobacco chewing and the incidence of male infertility," write Agarwal and colleagues.

They note that an earlier study by other researchers didn't find a link between male infertility and tobacco chewing. That study was smaller and was designed differently, Agarwal's team writes.

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