Living at an average temperature above 27 degrees throughout the day can cause a decrease in the production of spermatozoa and therefore infertility in men. The cause, discovered the researchers of the University of Padua in collaboration with the complex operating unit of andrology and reproductive medicine of Padua, would be the excessive activation of a specific gene also linked, in rare cases, to the onset of the tumor to the testicles. And, given that the rise in temperatures and the excessive heat of this period leave no way out, the same authors have developed a series of tips to help men manage coexistence with the heat by reducing the risks.
The effects of heat on male fertility
That continuous exposure to heat sources and, more generally, the increase in atmospheric temperature have a negative effect on sperm production was already known. Not surprisingly, the testicles are external organs and are on average two degrees lower than the body’s internal temperature. In those who suffer from obesity, for example, the fat covering the testicles causes a local increase in temperature and, consequently, a serious risk of infertility.
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The same thing happens for those who work in conditions of continuous exposure to heat sources. In this regard, an experiment had already been conducted considering a group of young people who regularly undergo saunas. They had seen that, within a month, taking a sauna twice a week reduced the number of sperm produced by fifty percent.
“In the young people who underwent frequent saunas, the process was reversible, and in six months the production of sperm was normalized again,” he says. Carlo Foresta, full professor of endocrinology at the University of Padua and president of the Foresta Foundation, which coordinated the study. “But if there are other concomitant problems that can reduce sperm production then the problem can be more lasting or even become chronic.”
A study conducted in the United States in 2015 linked the increase in atmospheric temperature with the number of sperm and new births. It emerged that in the period in which the average temperature in the 24 hours exceeded 27 degrees there was a decrease in births of 2.6% (about 107 thousand fewer children).
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The cause in the activation of a gene
According to the recent discovery, exposure to heat induces the activation of the E2F1 gene which regulates the division of cells that produce spermatozoa. The correlation between increased gene activity and infertility is also confirmed by the fact that men with a genetic alteration of E2F1 have a predisposition to infertility. The testicular damage induced by the increase in the activity of this gene, therefore, results in a lower ability to produce spermatozoa, and can lead, in the most serious cases, even to the development of testicular cancer. In another study involving young people with testicular cancer, an alteration of the same gene was found more frequently.
Five practical tips
“Our results lead us to think that a hot summer like the one we are experiencing could pose a risk to the fertility of many men, even young ones,” says Foresta. “This is why we give clear indications, especially to those looking for children, to prevent this from happening and to keep the increase in body temperature under control, especially at the local level”.
Cool clothes, linen pants
The advice that the Forest Foundation proposes to men in these hot days are, first of all, that of wearing loose clothing, as much as possible, fresh and in natural fibers, starting from underwear, or such as linen trousers, so to let the heat transpire as much as possible. “A person who sits all day, who has a sedentary job for example – continues Foresta – if he does not take some precautions, he inevitably encounters an increase in temperature which can be harmful”.
Eliminate alcohol and smoking
Another tip is to wash the gonads with fresh water; the third is the reduction or even better the elimination of alcohol and smoking which are known to change the body temperature; constant hydration is also essential and, finally, trying to reduce body temperature by stopping in cool areas or taking cold showers during the day.
“Thanks to our study we have found a new cause that contributes to the problem of male infertility” concludes Foresta. “This is fundamental because today, for most men who have few spermatozoa in the seminal fluid, we are unable to trace the cause of the problem”.
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