Leroy N. Soetoro
2019-11-09 18:50:58 UTC
More boys are born with gential disorders - such as their testes don't
Others are born with a condition called hypospadias, where the opening of
the penis is lower down, towards the base of the penis
Experts: Chemicals found in plastics may dirupt development in the womb
Others say extra fat in the diet and obesity disrupts male hormone levels
For decades, male sperm counts have been plummeting.
Now, doctors are warning increasing numbers of boys are being born with
Many boys' testicles fail to descend, while others are born with the
opening of their urethra, the tube out of which urine flows, is at the
base of their penis, meaning they have to sit down to go to the loo.
Some experts blame gender-bending chemicals in the environment, commonly
found in the plastic used in containers and our homes.
It is said they inhibit male sex hormones in the womb, which can lead to
defects in a developing male foetus.
Others say the problem is linked to lifestyle factors - that eating more
fat means we produce more of the female hormone oestrogen - which again,
will affect how a baby in the womb grows.
Some chalk men's falling sperm counts down to men's bulging waistlines -
as fat cells naturally produce more oestrogen which can affect the volume
and quality of their semen.
Here, speaking to medical blogging site The Hippocratic Post, experts
explain the devastating effects of male feminisation - and theories on its
An increasing number of baby boys in the UK are being born with genital
One in 350 male babies have a condition known as hypospadias.
Instead of the opening of the penis being at the tip, it may be lower down
the penis or even around the scrotum.
In a few rare cases, there may not be an opening at all.
One in 350 male babies have a condition known as hypospadias. This is when
the urethra - through which urine is expelled - emerges somewhere on the
shaft or even the base of the penis, instead of at the tip. If the head of
the penis is tipped backwards, it can make it impossible to urinate while
Other disorders of the male reproductive system are also on the increase.
Cryptorchidism is the most common genital malformation of all, when one of
both testes fail to descend into the scrotum, affecting between two and
four per cent of baby boys.
Chordee a downward curve of the penis, especially when erect is
usually, but not always, associated with hypospadias.
Boys with chordee often have to sit down when they relieve themselves. In
later life, the severe curvature from chordee can make intercourse
Many experts believe that the defects seen in male babies are related to a
broader problem- the feminisation of men.
Male sperm counts have halved since 1941. Infertility and cancer of the
testes are also on the rise. Testicular cancer is now the most common
cancer of young men.
Hypospadias is a congenital (present at birth) anomaly (abnormality),
which means that the malformation occurs during foetal development.
As the foetus develops, the urethra does not grow to its complete length.
Also during foetal development, the foreskin does not develop completely,
which typically leaves extra foreskin on the top side of the penis and no
foreskin on the underside of the penis.
Professor Richard Sharpe, a male-fertility specialist at the Medical
Research Council's University of Edinburgh Centre of Reproductive Health,
suggests that all the disorders stem from a problem arising at the key
stage in the development of the male foetus during early pregnancy.
He said: 'From epidemiological studies, we know that each of the disorders
is a risk factor for all the others, and that they share several
pregnancy-related risk factors.'
'Most importantly, we know that they share hormonal risk factors, in
particular anything that interferes with the production or action of
androgens and testosterone [the male sex hormones] during the sexual
differentiation process of the foetus that occurs in the womb.'
In other words, the suggestion is that there is something happening early
in the development of the male foetus that interferes with the key steps
enabling it to develop into a healthy, fertile male.
Professor Neil Skakkebaek, of the University of Copenhagen, revealed in
2010 that sperm counts had fallen by about a half over the past 50 years -
and more men were producing abnormal sperm.
Since the discovery, environmentalists have suggested that it could be
'gender-bending' chemicals endocrine disrupters in the environment
that are the cause of the gradual feminisation of men.
But despite intense research to find these endocrine disrupters, the
precise reasons for the problems have not so far been identified.
Some scientists believe that the culprit may just as likely be a change in
lifestyle, rather than exposure to some new environmental chemical.
John Ashby, from the Syngenta Central Toxicology Laboratory in
Macclesfield, said the focus on an environmental cause may be quite wrong.
'The human [reproductive] conditions cannot at the moment be associated
with a named chemical,' Mr Ashby said.
'There are many lifestyle changes that could be contributing to these
conditions, for instance increased smoking among young women.'
Another possible lifestyle factor that could be playing a role is the
significant increase in the intake of dietary fat over the past 50 years.
Fat is linked with oestrogens the female sex hormone and more fat
means more oestrogens, which means a possible increase in the risk of
interference with the proper development of male reproductive organs.
'The trends on dietary fat are up, and the implications are great for
endocrine disruption,' Mr Ashby said.
Nevertheless, work on animals has led to the discovery of some chemicals
in the environment that could be playing an important role.
Professor Sharpe cites his work on chemicals called phthalates, substances
used by industry to soften plastics.
He has been able to create a set of disorders in laboratory animals that
mimic human testicular dysgenesis syndrome - where the male reproductive
organs don't develop properly - by exposing pregnant mothers to certain
phthalates at a key stage of foetal development.
'Phthalates are the most common environmental chemical. They are in the
air around us,' Professor Sharpe said.
However, he points out, it is too early to jump to the conclusion that
this is the cause of the problem.
He continued: 'At present, doses that are 100- to 500-fold higher than the
highest reported human exposure are required to induce such effects, and
we do not have any proof that phthalates can induce such effects in
'Nevertheless, phthalates are everywhere in our environment, we are all
exposed, and the highest exposure appears to be in young women of
But although the jury is out in terms of what is causing the reproductive
problems among humans, the same is not the case for the feminisation
documented among wildlife, according to Professor Peter Matthiessen, an
independent consultant ecotoxicologist.
'People are cautious about saying that there are definite effects on
humans, but we have hard evidence for effects on wildlife in all groups,
from invertebrates to mammals,' he said.
'It's a real-world issue, not just a theoretical worry. It's actually
The effects range from relatively trivial biochemical changes, probably of
no ecological significance, to huge changes in populations and communities
This article has been reproduced with the permission of The Hippocratic
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