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Volume 15, Issue 2 (March 2013) 15, 179–183; 10.1038/aja.2012.105

Counting your sperm before they fertilize: are sperm counts really declining?

Alexander W Pastuszak1,2 and Dolores J Lamb1,2,3

1 Scott Department of Urology, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX, USA
2 Center for Reproductive Medicine, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX, USA
3 Department of Molecular Cell Biology, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX, USA

Correspondence: Dr DJ Lamb, (dlamb@bcm.edu)

Received 16 August 2012; Revised 25 November 2012; Accepted 10 October 2012 Advance online publication 21 January 2013


A purported global decline in sperm counts has been a source of controversy since the early 1990s. Numerous studies performed since then, as well as re-analysis of the original data, show either no changes, or even increases, in sperm concentrations over time. In this review, we discuss the 1992 meta-analysis that initiated the continuing debate on whether sperm concentrations are declining, and the community discussion surrounding it over the past two decades. We also highlight studies evaluating sperm concentrations performed since the initial study that produced different results, and conclude that no definitive cause for a decrease in sperm counts has been established, and the effects of geography and environment on sperm counts are unclear.

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