Scents and Sensibility

Don't Use Perfume

This just in: pregnant women have been advised to knock off using perfumes and scented body lotions after a published report suggested a link to future infertility and cancer in unborn baby boys. Professor Richard Sharpe, at the Medical Research Council's Human Sciences Unit in Scotland, and lead author of this study, found that damage to rat fetuses as a response to the maternal use of cosmetics can be seen as early as eight weeks' gestation. The resultant damage may be infertility or testicular cancer.

Professor Sharpe shared his findings at an Edinburgh conference on fertility about his discovery of a window of opportunity between 8-12 weeks gestation, early enough that some women may not even be aware that they are pregnant, during which fetal hormones are activated so that the male reproductive system is developed. Sharpe believes that such future problems related to male fertility including undescended testes, low sperm counts, and testicular cancer may be determined at this time by examining the function of testosterone during this brief time period.

Experiments performed on rats confirm that should testosterone production be suppressed at this time, the result would be future fertility issues. "We have found the male programming window, which occurs far earlier in fetal development than was previously thought, before the reproductive organs fully develop," said Sharpe.

Sharpe explains that androgens like testosterone are at their most active during this time. Any shortage of these hormones may prevent the male reproductive system from realizing its full potential. This may be reflected through a wide variety of reproductive abnormalities including the size of the penis and testicles, undescended testicles, or a low sperm count. The blockage of androgens ensures that in some way, the reproductive system will malfunction. There may be one sign or many signs at once.

Be Proactive

Sharpe suggests that by avoiding maternal use of body lotions and perfumes, women will take a proactive part in preventing male reproductive disorders in their unborn children. While there is no absolute proof that perfume and scent are harmful to the male reproductive system, this is one way that children may be exposed to chemicals and it's easy enough to desist from a spritz of the scented stuff.

The most common birth defect in baby boys is undescended testicles, affecting up to 8% of male children. The condition is linked to later infertility and is also a risk factor for the development of testicular cancer in later years.

There has been a decline in sperm count and quality within the last 30 years. One out of every seven couples in the UK will have trouble getting pregnant. One third of these cases are due to male infertility.

Testicular cancer is also on the rise, with an increase of between 1-6% every year. The number of new cases of testicular cancer in the UK has grown from 850 cases in 1975 to 1889 in the year 2004.

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