Journal Article

Epidemiologic Studies of Human Semen Quality: Considerations for Study Design

Barbara A Cohn, James W. Overstreet, Rachel J. Fogel, Charlene K. Brazil, Donna Day Baird and Piera M. Cirillo

in American Journal of Epidemiology

Published on behalf of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health

Volume 155, issue 7, pages 664-671
Published in print April 2002 | ISSN: 0002-9262
Published online April 2002 | e-ISSN: 1476-6256 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/aje/155.7.664
Epidemiologic Studies of Human Semen Quality: Considerations for Study Design

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Few empirical data exist on the characteristics of subjects who provide semen specimens in epidemiologic studies. The objective of this investigation was to determine participation rates and potential biases in a contemporary study of human semen quality. Subjects (n = 268) are a subset of the Child Health and Development Studies. Their mothers enrolled between 1960 and 1963 during pregnancy. Archived prenatal serum samples, prenatal and birth records, placental examinations, and follow-up for growth and development through adulthood are available. Sons were aged 36–39 years at the time of this study. Respondents to the initial mailing and nonrespondents, who were subsequently traced and recruited, differed in semen parameters, including sperm concentration (78.3 × 106/ml for respondents vs. 37.2; p = 0.003) and the percentage of normal morphology according to the 1987 criteria of the World Health Organization (58.7% for respondents vs. 53.3%; p = 0.04). The authors conclude that researchers designing population-based studies of semen parameters should expect nonrepresentative samples. Adaptation of the design to anticipate and mitigate bias and to maximize efficiency can yield scientifically sound information. Recommendations for study designs are discussed.

Keywords: bias (epidemiology);; environmental exposure;; epidemiologic methods;; longitudinal studies;; semen; CHDS, Child Health and Development Studies.

Journal Article.  4905 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Public Health and Epidemiology

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