Is human fecundity declining?


Niels E. Skakkebæk, University Department of Growth and Reproduction, Rigshospitalet, Section 5064, Blegdamsvej 9, DK-2100 Copenhagen, Denmark. E-mail:


The decreasing trends in fertility rates in many industrialized countries are now so dramatic that they deserve much more scientific attention. Although social and behavioural factors undoubtedly play a major role for these trends, it seems premature, and not based on solid information, to conclude that these trends can be ascribed to social and behavioural changes alone. There is evidence to suspect that changing lifestyle and increasing environmental exposures, e.g. to endocrine disrupters, are behind the trends in occurrence of male reproductive health problems, including testis cancer, undescended testis and poor semen quality. These biological factors may also contribute to the extremely low fertility rates. However, the necessary research is complex and requires non-traditional collaboration between demographers, epidemiologists, clinicians, biologists, wild life researchers, geneticists and molecular biologists. This research effort can hardly be carried out without major support from governments and granting agencies making it possible to fund collaborative projects within novel research networks of scientists.