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Review of studies confirms sperm quality declines with age

A review of 90 studies has confirmed that men's sperm quality declines with age, likely lowering their fertility.

Zee Media Bureau

Melbourne: A review of 90 studies has confirmed that men's sperm quality declines with age, likely lowering their fertility.

The study, carried out by the researchers from the University of Otago in New Zealand, collated and reviewed data from 90 previous studies from around the world.

After conducting a systematic review and meta-analysis of the studies' data, researchers from the University's Departments of Zoology and Anatomy found consistent age-related declines in semen volume and sperm performance and increases in malformed and DNA-damaged sperm.

According to study lead author Dr Sheri Johnson, understanding how age affects fertility is becoming increasingly important as couples delay childbearing toward later stages of their lives.

“While female age is well known to have negative effects on fertility, reproductive success and the health of offspring, the influence of male age on a couple's fertility has been largely neglected,” Johnson said.

The effects of declining semen traits with increasing male age have largely been ignored due to inconsistencies in the literature, but the Otago study now suggests that male age affects a variety of traits.

“It is well recognised that reduced sperm performance can affect pregnancy success, but it is less well known that the quality of the sperm, particularly DNA quality, could affect the development and health of the offspring,” she said.

Professor Neil Gemmell, a co-author on the paper, said the consistency in its findings suggests that further awareness of the potential consequences of male age on reproductive outcomes is needed.

"Older males contribute to increased risk of obstetric complications, miscarriage, and offspring disorders such as autism, Down syndrome, epilepsy, and schizophrenia," Gemmell said.

The authors advise that clinicians and the general public need to be aware of the risks associated with male age on fertility outcomes.

The authors also suggest that clinical analysis of the percentage of DNA-fragmented sperm cells and a greater focus on how well sperm swim may lead to better patient outcomes during fertility treatments of ageing couples.

Researchers synthesised the current state of knowledge from 90 individual studies, involving around 94,000 volunteers/patients from more than 30 countries.

The study appears in the international journal Ageing Research Reviews.

(With Agency inputs)

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