Sperm production can be impacted by cancer and its treatment, permanently altering the male body’s reproductive capacity. These treatments are referred to as potentially gonadotoxic treatments. Sperm production can be impaired by both radiation and chemotherapy, and these treatments may alter the DNA of sperm that is produced. Cryopreservation is science’s answer to safeguard male fertility during cancer treatments.
Recently, researchers1 for the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology asked the following question:
- How does the successful cryopreservation of semen affect the odds of post-treatment fatherhood among Hodgkin lymphoma survivors?
The researchers knew that cryopreservation of semen is the safest and easiest way to ensure that male patients facing cancer treatment can preserve their fertility. But they did not know how many patients are using this option with success.
Using a survey, the researchers polled Hodgkin’s Lymphoma survivors who were treated between 1974 and 2004. Of the 902 respondents, only 334 indicated that they desired to conceive children after treatment, while a total of 363 men opted to preserve their semen prior to treatment. The decision to preserve semen was reportedly influenced by the patient’s age, treatment period, disease stage, treatment modality, and education level. Of the 363 who preserved their semen, only 78 men chose to use their cryopreserved semen in an attempt to convince children. 48 were successful, a 62% rate of conception using cryopreserved sperm. Many of the survivors (210 men) were able to conceive children after treatment without the aid of cryopreservation.
According to the researchers, “the availability of cryopreserved semen doubled the odds of post-treatment fatherhood.”
While the researchers focused their study on survivors of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, these results illustrate the benefits that cryopreservation of semen can have for patients facing potentially gonadotoxic treatments for any type of cancer. If you are scheduled for treatment that may impact fertility, you can double your chances of post-treatment fatherhood by cryopreserving your sperm prior to treatment.
1) van der Kaaij, M.A.E., van Echten-Arends, J., Heutte, N., Meijnders, P., Abeilard-Lemoisson, E., Spina, M. & Kluin-Nelemans, J.C. (2014). Cryopreservation, semen use and the likelihood of fatherhood in male Hodgkin lymphoma survivors: an EORTC-GELA Lymphoma Group cohort study. Human Reproduction, 29(3), 525–533.0