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    Does heat exposure affect spermatogenesis?

    Men’s Health Mythbuster is a new section on UrologyTimes.com that explores common statements and beliefs about men’s health and evaluates whether these statements are false. To leave feedback or suggest future myths, send an email to [email protected] or post a comment below.

    Dr. Craig is a fellow in men’s health and reconstructive urology, Dr. Brant is associate professor of surgery (urology), and Dr. Hotaling is assistant professor of surgery (urology) at the Center for Reconstructive Urology and Men's Health, University of Utah Health Care, Salt Lake City.

    Scrotal temperature through heat exposure has a major effect in reducing and disrupting spermatogenesis.

    Male infertility is common, with up to 15% of couples being infertile and male factor being causative in 50%, or 7% of all men. In many men, the etiology of male infertility remains unexplained. Thus, we often seek to minimize any exposure that can impact spermatogenesis.

    Also see: Is calorie restriction the path to victory against fat?

    One of the main limitations to all of this work is that a semen analysis is not a great marker of male reproductive potential. It has a 400% test-to-test variability, and the only finding that precludes natural conception is azoospermia (N Engl J Med 2001; 345:1388-93). Thus, large sample sizes and repeated measures are required to obtain high-quality data.

    Spermatogenesis is the highest throughput process in the human body, producing ~1,000 sperm per second. As such, the testicles are anatomically designed to remain 4°C cooler than other tissues. Human sperm production, unlike that of many other animals, occurs in many overlapping waves such that all stages of spermatogenesis are present at any given time. Sperm production takes roughly 72 days. Thus, any insult to this process will take 3 months to completely resolve.

    Read - Avoid all saturated fat: Men’s health myth?

    Myth debunked? There are significant data examining the role of heat exposure to male sperm. However, none of it is very high quality and the data are murky at best. This area has been studied given the very logical impact of elevated heat on sperm production. The mechanism of disruption to spermatogenesis is thought to be mediated through increased DNA damage, oxidative stress, and transient disruption to pachytene spermatocytes and spermatids (Andrologia 2007; 39:203-15).

    Next: "One major problem has been the inability to reliably measure intrascrotal temperature."


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