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May 17, 2014 09:49 AM EDT

Semen Abnormalities Linked To Shorter Life Span

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Men rendered infertile due to defects in their semen may have an increased risk of dying sooner than men with normal semen, according to a recent study HealthDay reported.

Researchers from Stanford University in California found that men with two or more abnormalities in their semen had a risk of death that was more than double that of men who were fertile.

Dr. Michael Eisenberg, lead author of the study and an assistant professor of urology and Stanford University School of Medicine's director of male reproductive medicine and surgery, told HealthDay that doctors who treat men for infertility should advise them to adopt healthy habits that might boost their survival.

"There may be a window of opportunity here. When they see their doctor they could do some other things that might benefit them," Eisenberg said. "I see this as an opportunity to pay more attention to your health and be more proactive."

For the eight-year study, researchers examined the records of nearly 12,000 men, between the ages of 20 and 50, who had visited one or two centers to be evaluated for possible infertility.  By keying identifiers for the patients to data in the National Death Index and the Social Security Death index, the investigators were able to monitor these men's mortality for a median of about eight years, HealthDay reported.

"We were able to determine with better than 90 percent accuracy who died during that follow-up time," Eisenberg said. "There was an inverse relationship. In the years following their evaluation, men with poor semen quality had more than double the mortality rate of those who didn't."

The difference in death rates between those who had semen abnormalities and those who didn't was statistically significant. Those with two or more semen abnormalities were more than twice as likely to die during the follow-up period as those without any.

"It's plausible that, even though we didn't detect it, infertility may be caused by pre-existing general health problems," Eisenberg said. 

The findings were recently published in Human Reproduction.

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