Approximately 1 in 20 men are sub-fertile or infertile yet the aetiologies of male infertility remain largely unexplained. It is suggested that lifestyle choices and environmental factors contribute but research is limited. In particular, no study has evaluated early life exposures and subsequent male infertility. To address this knowledge gap, this study aims to characterise a cohort of men with idiopathic infertility and compare their general health, lifestyle choices and environmental exposures from teenage years onwards to men without reproductive abnormalities.
Two groups of men (N = 500 cases; N = 500 controls), matched for age and socio-economic status, will be recruited from fertility clinics around Australia between June 2021 and June 2024. Men will be eligible if they are between 18 and 50 years, with a female partner less than 42 years, and have identified idiopathic male infertility (case) or are part of a couple with diagnosed female factor infertility but with no indication of compromised male fertility (control). Participants will complete an in-depth survey on general health, lifestyle and environmental exposures, reporting from teenage years onwards. An online medical data capture form will be used to gather fertility assessment information from participant medical records. Biological specimens of saliva (all study participants), blood and urine (optional) will be collected and stored for future genetic and epigenetic analysis. Differences in outcome measures between cases and controls will be determined using appropriate between groups comparisons. The relationship between explanatory variables and infertility will be analysed using multilevel modelling to account for clustering within fertility clinics.
This study addresses an important gap in research on the aetiology of male infertility and will provide a comprehensive profile of the lifestyle and environmental risk factors for male infertility, leading to provision of up-to-date health advice for male teenagers and adults about optimising their fertility.