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Anogenital distance is associated with semen quality but not reproductive hormones in 1106 young men from the general population

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STUDY QUESTION: Is anogenital distance (AGD) associated with semen quality and reproductive hormones in men from the general population?

SUMMARY ANSWER: Short AGD measured from the anus to the base of scrotum (AGDAS) was associated with reduced sperm counts and morphology but not with sperm motility or reproductive hormones.

WHAT IS KNOWN ALREADY: AGD is longer in males than in females. In rodents, AGD is a well-established and sensitive marker of disruption during the masculinization programming window in utero and it has been suggested to be so in humans as well. Therefore, the average AGD would be expected to be shorter in men with poor semen quality, which some studies have confirmed while others have not.

STUDY DESIGN, SIZE, DURATION: This cross-sectional population-based study was of 1106 men included between 2012 and 2016.

PARTICIPANTS/MATERIALS, SETTING, METHODS: Men from the general Danish population (median age 19 years), unselected with regard to fertility status and semen quality, delivered a semen sample, had a blood sample drawn, which was analyzed for concentrations of reproductive hormones, and answered a comprehensive questionnaire. They also had a physical examination performed including determination of AGD measured as the distance between anus and scrotum (AGDAS) and penis (AGDAP). Odds ratios (OR) and 95% CI were estimated for a man having abnormal semen parameters according to the World Health Organization's reference values or a low/high concentration of reproductive hormones (defined as the lowest or highest 10%) depending on AGD. AGD was categorized in four strata: ≤10th percentile, 10th-30th percentile, 30th-50th percentile and >50th percentile.

MAIN RESULTS AND THE ROLE OF CHANCE: Men with the 10% shortest AGDAS had a more than doubled risk (OR: 2.19, 95% CI: 1.40-3.42) of being in the subfertile range for either sperm concentration (<15 million/mL) or sperm morphology (<4%) compared to men with AGDAS above the median (reference). Men in the 10th-30th percentile also had an increased OR of 1.48 (95% CI: 1.06-2.08) but not men in the 30th-50th percentile (OR: 1.14, 95% CI: 0.81-1.62). AGDAP was only weakly related to semen quality. AGD was not associated with testicular volume or any of the reproductive hormones.

LIMITATIONS, REASONS FOR CAUTION: Limitations include the potential non-differential misclassification of reproductive outcomes based on a single semen and blood sample and some between-examiner differences in AGD measurements which introduces noise and may result in an underestimation of observed associations.

WIDER IMPLICATIONS OF THE FINDINGS: Our study of men from the general population confirmed associations between AGD and semen quality, supporting the hypothesis that AGD in humans could be a marker of fetal testicular development. This suggests that the low semen quality in Danish men may partly be explained by prenatal factors.

STUDY FUNDING/COMPETING INTEREST(S): The study has received financial support from the ReproUnion (L.P.); the Research fund of Rigshospitalet, Copenhagen University Hospital (N.J.); Grants R01ES016863-04 and R01ES016863-02S4; National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) and National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences grant (P30ES023515) (S.S.); the European Union (Contract numbers BMH4-CT96-0314, QLK4-CT-1999-01422, QLK4-CT-2002-00603, FP7/2007-2013, DEER Grant agreement no. 212844); the Danish Ministry of Health; the Danish Environmental Protection Agency; A.P. Møller and wife Chastine McKinney Møllers foundation; and Svend Andersens Foundation. None of the funders had any role in the study design, collection, analysis or interpretation of data, writing of the paper or publication decisions. The authors have nothing to declare.

TRIAL REGISTRATION NUMBER: N/A.

Original languageEnglish
JournalHuman reproduction (Oxford, England)
ISSN0268-1161
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2019

ID: 55696687