Gulf war veterans are at increased risk of infertility

UK Gulf war veterans are at a small increased risk of infertility, according to new research published on

Researchers at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine surveyed 24,379 male Gulf war veterans and a matched comparison group of 18,439 non-deployed servicemen.

Risk of reported infertility was higher among Gulf war veterans than among the comparison group of non-Gulf veterans. For instance, failure to achieve conceptions was 2.5% for Gulf veterans and 1.7% for non-Gulf veterans, while failure to achieve a live birth was 3.4% for Gulf veterans and 2.3% for non-Gulf veterans.

This small effect did not decline with time since the war and was observed whether or not the men had fathered children before the war, consistent with a theory of sperm damage. Pregnancies fathered by Gulf veterans who did not report fertility problems also took longer to conceive.

These results should be treated with caution, and at this stage no firm conclusions can be drawn, stress the authors.

However, put together with previous finding of increased miscarriage among pregnancies fathered by male UK Gulf veterans, these results justify further research into the reproductive health of men deployed to the Gulf region, including a prospective investigation of veterans of the recent conflict in Iraq, they conclude.

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