Rise in ICSI cycles suggests infertility could be affecting more men than women

Infertility may be becoming more of a man's problem than a woman's problem according to new figures released at the 21st annual conference of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology.

Until now, approximately 40% of infertility cases have been linked to medical problems in men and 40% to medical problems in women, with the remaining 20% due to joint problems.

However, a report from the ESHRE committee that monitors assisted reproduction in Europe, has shown that ICSI (intracytoplasmic sperm injection) overtook conventional IVF techniques as the most commonly used assisted reproductive technology used in Europe in 2002.

There were more than 122,000 ICSI cycles and nearly 113,000 IVF cycles according to figures reported from 24 European countries in 2002. During the time that the committee has been collecting figures, the numbers of ICSI cycles have risen steadily: in 1997 the proportion of ICSI cycles versus IVF cycles was 43.7%; in 2002 it had grown to 52%.

Dr Anders Nyboe Andersen, Head of the Fertility Clinic at the Rigshospitalet at Copenhagen University Hospital, Denmark, and co-ordinator of the ESHRE IVF monitoring committee, said: "We do not really know why ICSI has become more prevalent. There are probably many reasons. One of them could be that the relative causes of infertility are shifting. We see less and less infertility caused by severe tubal problems in women, probably because of better sexual protection due to the risk of AIDS during the last 15 years. But male subfertility seems to be increasing. Perhaps the data on declining sperm quality are true, and maybe environmental factors are playing an increasing role as the planet becomes more polluted and factors that disrupt the endocrine system enter the food chain."

ICSI is a comparatively young assisted reproduction technique; it was developed by Gianpiero Palermo, with the first ICSI baby being born in 1992. Before its introduction tra

Contact: Mary Rice
European Society for Human Reproduction and Embryology

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