Cigarette Smoking And Semen Quality

The effect of cigarette smoking on semen quality is an area still being researched. While the empirical evidence may still not be fully conclusive, it is clear that there are potential adverse effects, which can be significantly adverse. Thus, quitting smoking should be an important part of medical management of poor semen quality.
Cigarette Smoking and Semen Quality
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CIGARETTE SMOKE is a culprit in such a large number of medical diseases that its impact on different parts of body has been a matter of constant interest and investigation. Reproductive system is no exception, and though the investigations so far do not provide all the answers that the investigators have been seeking, one thing is clear - cigarette smoke negatively affects reproduction capacity, and the negative effect manifests in a fall in quality and health of semen of smokers. What is worse, this negative impact is worse in those who smoke more and perhaps even worst in those who

both smoke and drink.

Studies on the Impact of Cigarette Smoking on Semen

Several studies have been conducted to study the impact of smoking on semen quality and characteristics. The methodology and control population in these studies has been different. While some employed normal fertile non-smoker males as control, others used the subgroup of non-fertile non-smokers for this purpose. Some of the studies are prospective in nature but the majority consists of retrospective analysis of smoking history with current examination of semen quality. No surprise, then, that the deductions derived from these studies still do not always lead to a common conclusion, even though most suggest a clearly negative impact of smoking on semen health.

Dr. Nick Bersinger (University of Berne, Switzerland) and co-authors conducted a study on 655 smoking and 1,131 non-smoking men, through a questionnaire including questions on age, alcohol use, and reproductive history. Their semen samples were collected and analysed. The results demonstrated that cigarette smoking was associated with a fall in sperm density, sperm count, number of motile sperm, and sperm health, leading the researcher group to conclude in the study published in Fertility and Sterility (1) that smoking negatively affects the semen quality.

A four member team lead by Jin-Ping Zhang conducted a similar study on smokers and non-smokers attending

the infertility clinic in Shandong, China and observed that the semen volume, sperm density, viability and mobility were much lower in the medium, heavy and long-term smokers than in the non-smokers and were negatively correlated with the amount and duration of cigarette smoking. They concluded that medium, heavy and long-term smoking adversely affected the semen quality in a population of men visiting the infertility clinic in Shandong, China. (2)

In an interesting study involving 2542 men, C.H. Ramlau-Hansen and his co-workers studied the semen quality of males and correlated it with their prenatal exposure to smoking as suggested by the smoking history of their mothers during their pregnancy. Surprisingly, they found that smoking by mother can have a negative impact on the quality of semen of the progeny. (3)

However, not all researchers have reached the same conclusion. Ramadan A. Saleh and others did not observe a significant fall in number of sperms or their health or mobility, but they observed a higher level of seminal oxidative stress (OS) in semen that indicated poor fertilizing capacity. (4) They also concluded that smoking adversely impacts semen health.


All these studies highlight one common aspect. In the words of Dr. Bersinger, "men with borderline semen quality who wish to have children should especially benefit from quitting smoking."

Therein lays the most important message that these researchers have been able to send us. Smoking is bad for health. It is also bad for the next generation.

(1) Fertility and Sterility; 79, 287-91, 3 March 2003
(2) Asian J Androl; Volume 2, 143-146, 2000 June
(3) Human Reproduction; Volume 22, Number 1, 188-196
(4) Fertility and sterility; Volume 78, Number 3, 491-499, September 2002


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