Is exposure to perfluorinated compounds (PFCs) associated with testicular function (reproductive hormone levels and semen quality) in healthy men? SUMMARY ANSWER: PFOS levels were significantly negatively associated with serum testosterone (total and calculated free), but not with any other reproductive hormones or semen quality. WHAT IS KNOWN ALREADY: In animals, some PFCs have endocrine disrupting potential, but few studies have investigated PFCs in relation to human testicular function. Previously, we and others have observed a negative association between serum PFC levels and sperm morphology. The potential associations with reproductive hormones remain largely unresolved. STUDY DESIGN, SIZE, DURATION: A cross-sectional study of 247 men was conducted during 2008-2009. PARTICIPANTS/MATERIALS, SETTING, METHODS: Healthy men from the general population, median age of 19 years, gave serum and semen samples. Serum samples were analysed for total testosterone (T), estradiol (E), sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG), luteinizing hormone (LH), follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and inhibin-B and 14 PFCs, including perfluorooctanesulfonate (PFOS). Semen samples were analysed according to the WHO criteria. MAIN RESULTS AND THE ROLE OF CHANCE: PFOS levels were negatively associated with testosterone (T), calculated free testosterone (FT), free androgen index (FAI) and ratios of T/LH, FAI/LH and FT/LH. Other PFCs were found at lower levels than PFOS and did not exhibit the same associations. PFC levels were not significantly associated with semen quality. PFOS levels in these samples collected in 2008-2009 were lower than in our previous study of men participating in 2003. LIMITATIONS, REASONS FOR CAUTION: Results were robust to adjustment for relevant confounders; however, the possibility of chance associations due to multiple testing or effects of uncontrolled confounding cannot be ruled out. WIDER IMPLICATIONS OF THE FINDINGS: Our previous findings of decreased sperm morphology in the most highly PFC exposed men were not replicated, possibly due to a lack of highly exposed individuals; however, a recent independent study also did corroborate such an inverse association. The negative association between serum PFOS and testosterone indicates that testosterone production may be compromised in individuals with high PFOS exposure. STUDY FUNDING/COMPETING INTEREST(S): The authors received financial support from the European Commission (DEER, FP7-2007-212844), the Danish Agency for Science, Technology and Innovation (grant nos. 27107068 and 09-067180), Rigshospitalet (grant no. 961506336), the University of Copenhagen, the Danish Ministry of Health and the Danish Environmental Protection Agency (MST-621-00013), and Kirsten and Freddy Johansen Foundation (grant no. 95-103-72087). The funding organizations played no role in the design and conduct of the study, in collection, management, analysis and interpretation of the data; or in the presentation, review or approval of the manuscript. The authors declare that they have no competing financial interests.
Human Reproduction, 2013, Vol 28, Issue 3, p. 599-608