Testicular function was studied in ten men, aged between 17 and 36 years, who had received irradiation for a nephroblastoma during childhood. The dose of scattered irradiation to the testes ranged from 268 to 983 rad. Eight subjects had either oligo- or azoospermia (0 to 5.6 million/ml), seven of whom had an elevated serum follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) level. One subject showed evidence of Leydig cell dysfunction with a raised serum luteinizing hormone level (LH) and a low plasma testosterone concentration.
A second group of eight prepubertal males, aged between 8 and 14 years, were studied. These had also been irradiated for abdominal malignancies during childhood and received a similar dose of irradiation to the testis as the first group studied. The plasma testosterone levels were within the normal range for prepubertal boys in all eight. The mean gonadotrophin levels were not significantly different from the mean levels of normal prepubertal males. Thus irradiation-induced damage to the germinal epithelium in prepubertal boys produces raised FSH levels after puberty but not before it.
We conclude, therefore, that inhibin has a minor role in the control of the prepubertal hypothalamic-pituitary testicular axis and its contribution to gonadal control of gonadotrophin secretion changes with sexual maturation.