Objectives To establish a base line for future studies on temporal trends, to describe potential geographical differences in semen quality and reference values for studies of men from the general population.
Design Cross-sectional study of fertile men from four areas in Japan. Inclusion criteria were: age 20–45 years at the time of invitation, and both the man and his mother had to be born in Japan. Additionally, the current pregnancy of the female partner had to be achieved by normal sexual relations without any fertility treatment.
Setting Four Japanese study centres at urban areas located in Sapporo, Osaka, Kanazawa and Fukuoka.
Participants 792 men, median age 31.4 years, included from 1999 to 2002.
Outcome measures Semen volume, sperm concentration, total sperm count, sperm motility and sperm morphology.
Results Semen volumes, percentages of motile spermatozoa and morphologically normal spermatozoa differed slightly between the four groups, whereas no differences in sperm concentrations or total sperm counts were found. In total, 1.2% of men had a sperm concentration below 5 million/ml, 2.1% below 10 million/ml, 3.5% below 15 million/ml and 16.3% below 40 million/ml. For morphology, 14.7% had less than 5% normal spermatozoa. Reproductive hormone levels varied significantly, however, only little from a biological point of view.
Conclusions This is the first cross-sectional study on semen quality covering fertile men from the major regions of Japan. It showed that semen quality of fertile Japanese men is comparable to that of the best in European regions. The results may serve as reference values for studies of men from the general population.
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