WEDNESDAY, May 11 (HealthDay News) -- It may be possible to
assess a man's fertility by checking his "anogenital distance," the
gap between his scrotum and anus, a new study suggests.
Previous studies in animals have shown that anogenital distance
is an important measure of genital development and may be shorter
in males with abnormal development and dysfunction of the
testicles, the Baylor College of Medicine researchers
Furthermore, a study from the University of Rochester, published
in March in
Environmental Health Perspectives, found that men with shorter anogenital spans had lower sperm counts, poorer quality sperm, lower sperm concentrations and lower motility.
In the new study, the Baylor group investigated whether
anogenital distance differed in fertile and infertile men. They
measured the scrotum-anus distance as well as the penis length of
117 infertile and 56 fertile men visiting an andrology clinic.
The infertile men had a significantly shorter anogenital
distance and penis length than the fertile men, the study
Dr. Michael Eisenberg, a male reproductive medicine and surgery
fellow in the Baylor urology department and the study's lead
author, said the study has two main implications. "First, this
could represent a noninvasive way to test testicular function and
reproductive potential in adult men," he said in a Baylor news
release. "And second, it suggests that gestational exposures and
development may impact adult testicular function."
Further research is needed to compare techniques for measuring
anogenital distance and assess their accuracy, he and his
One expert who's done her own research in this area applauded
"This is an important paper showing, once again, that anogenital distance is a strong predictor of semen quality," said Shanna H. Swan, vice chair for research in the department of preventive medicine at Mount Sinai Children's Environmental Health Center, New York City. "This paper also provides new data on infertile men, who have shorter (less masculine) anogenital distance."
Swan said that she and her colleagues published similar findings
last month. "Together the two studies make a strong case that this
simple measure (the anogenital distance) reflects early genital
development and predicts semen quality and fertility," she
But one urologist said the the finding is too preliminary to
introduce into clinical practice, however.
"We would all like a simple, noninvasive way to predict potential problems with fertility in men, but unfortunately, this one is not ready for prime time," said Dr. Elizabeth Kavaler, a urology specialist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. "We have a long way to go before we can use anogenital distance as a determinant of future fertility in men."
The study was published online May 11 in
The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about