Sperm count half lower in sons of smoking fathers
Smoking in men may reduce your testosterone levels, but it may also reduce the sperm count of your sons, according to a new study at Sweden’s Lund University published on PlosOne.
Previous studies have repeatedly linked reduced sperm counts in males to smoking by women during pregnancy.
The new study shows sons of fathers who smoked at the time of pregnancy had half as many sperm as those with nonsmoking fathers.
The study was conducted on 104 Swedish men aged between 17 and 20.
Once the researchers had adjusted for the mother’s own exposure to nicotine, socioeconomic factors, and the sons’ own smoking, men with fathers who smoked had a 41 per cent lower sperm concentration and 51 per cent fewer sperm than men with non-smoking fathers.
“I was very surprised that, regardless of the mother’s level of exposure to nicotine, the sperm count of the men whose fathers smoked was so much lower”, says Jonatan Axelsson, specialist physician in occupational and environmental medicine.
“Unlike the maternal ovum, the father’s gametes divide continuously throughout life and mutations often occur at the precise moment of cell division. We know that tobacco smoke contains many substances that cause mutations so one can imagine that, at the time of conception, the gametes have undergone mutations and thereby pass on genes that result in reduced sperm quality in the male offspring.”
Most newly occurring mutations come via the father and there are also links between the father’s age and a number of complex diseases.
In addition, researchers have observed that smoking is linked to DNA damage in sperm and that smokers have more breaks in the DNA strand.
Children of fathers who smoke have been reported to have up to four times as many mutations in a certain repetitive part of the DNA as children of non-smoking fathers.
“We know there is a link between sperm count and chances of pregnancy, so that could affect the possibility for these men to have children in future. The father’s smoking is also linked to a shorter reproductive lifespan in daughters, so the notion that everything depends on whether the mother smokes or not doesn’t seem convincing. Future research could perhaps move us closer to a causal link,” concludes Axelsson.