A combination of genetic, environmental and lifestyle factors contributes to adverse effects on the reproductive health in men. Metals are pervasive in food, water, air, tobacco smoke, and alcoholic beverages. Experimental studies suggest that many metals have adverse effects on the male reproductive function. However, information about reproductive effects of human exposure to metals is scarce and/or inconsistent. This review summarises the information from epidemiological studies of the effects of metal exposure on reproductive function in men. Factors capable of affecting these relationships were identified and discussed. A particular attention is given to the studies considering influence of concomitant exposure to various metals.
These studies have generally confirmed that even moderate- to low-level exposure to lead affects certain reproductive parameters, and that exposure to cadmium affects the prostate function and serum testosterone levels. Adverse effects of mercury, manganese, chromium and arsenic on semen quality and altered serum hormone are less well documented. There is no clear evidence that boron exposure may impair reproductive health in men. Only a few studies have investigated reproductive effects of concomitant exposure to several metals and controlled for potential confounders. Future studies should consider the contribution of combined exposure to various metals and/or other factors that may influence individual susceptibility to reproductive health impairment in men.
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