Chronic exposure to radiation at the workplace may impair sperm quality in men, Indian medical scientists have found.

According to the findings of a new study, male health professionals who continue to handle radiation equipment at hospitals for a prolonged period of time are more likely to produce poor quality sperm cells.

The study
For the purpose of the study, researchers at the Manipal University, India, looked at 83 health care professionals responsible for handling diagnostic or radiation units at various hospitals. The tenure of their jobs varied from 3 to 18 years.

51 men working in same hospitals and following similar lifestyle but not exposed to radiation machinery, formed the control group.

All participants provided semen samples that were tested for sperm number, vitality, shape and DNA quality.
Sperm samples of men exposed to the radiation reported higher anomalies as against those seen in the sperm samples of men in the control group, researchers highlighted.
Such sperms had decreased sperm motility, ability to swim towards the egg, and altered shape and vitality.

Furthermore, sperm DNA quality was severely compromised in workers exposed to high radiation doses. Also, number of years of radiation exposure was directly related to impaired DNA quality.

“If the sperm DNA is not maintained in a right manner, it could impact the next generation’s health,” study’s lead researcher, Satish Adiga, professor of clinical embryology at the Manipal University, said.

“Human testicles produce millions of sperm cells daily, out of which only one sperm fuses with egg and makes the embryo. The genetic material (DNA) is tightly packed in the sperm cell, susceptible to damage,” said Adiga.

“A little damage is normal, as is seen in the sperm of fertile men. But if the damage reaches high levels it can lead to problems. The mature sperm has no capacity to repair the damage and if such sperm cell fertilizes the egg, the damage can be transmitted to the resulting embryo and baby.”

“Though we did not find increased incidence of infertility and miscarriages in these workers, the genetic and epigenetic abnormalities observed in the sperm are serious concerns,” Adiga added.

The findings of the study are reported in the US journal Public Library of Science ONE.

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