Anabolic steroids and male infertility: a comprehensive review

Authors


Guilherme Leme de Souza, Sao Paulo State Military Police Hospital. Urology Department, Avemida Nova Cantareira 3659, 02341-001 Sao Paulo, Brazil. e-mail: guilhermesouza2003@hotmail.com

Abstract

What’s known on the subject? and What does the study add?

The negative impact of AAS abuse on male fertility is well known by urologists. The secondary hypogonadotropic hypogonadism is often highlighted when AAS and fertility are being discussed. On the other hand, the patterns of use, mechanisms of action and direct effects over the testicle are usually overseen. The present study reviews the vast formal and “underground” culture of AAS, as well as their overall implications. Specific considerations about their impact on the male reproductive system are made, with special attention to the recent data on direct damage to the testicle. To our knowledge this kind of overview is absolutely unique, offering a distinguished set of information to the day-by-day urologists.

For several decades, testosterone and its synthetic derivatives have been used with anabolic and androgenic purposes. Initially, these substances were restricted to professional bodybuilders, becoming gradually more popular among recreational power athletes. Currently, as many as 3 million anabolic-androgenic steroids (AAS) users have been reported in the United States, and considering its increasing prevalence, it has become an issue of major concern. Infertility is defined as the failure to achieve a successful pregnancy after 12 months or more of regular unprotected intercourse, with male factor being present in up to 50% of all infertile couples. Several conditions may be related to male infertility. Substance abuse, including AAS, is commonly associated to transient or persistent impairment on male reproductive function, through different pathways. Herein, a brief overview on AAS, specially oriented to urologists, is offered. Steroids biochemistry, patterns of use, physiological and clinical issues are enlightened. A further review about fertility outcomes among male AAS abusers is also presented, including the classic reports on transient axial inhibition, and the more recent experimental reports on structural and genetic sperm damage.

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