Some sunscreen may cause fertility problems in men and pregnancy delays

NHI researchers have identified two chemicals that appear to reduce fertility in men

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NHI researchers have identified two chemicals that appear to reduce fertility in men.

Certain sunscreen chemicals used to protect against ultraviolent rays may impair men’s ability to father children in a timely manner, according to a study by the National Institutes of Health and the New York state Department of Health’s Wadsworth Center. But the researchers caution that the results are preliminary and that additional studies are needed to confirm their findings.

Men who are concerned about fertility may be interested in other ways to reduce their exposure to benzophenone UV filters—whether by cutting back on other products that contain the UV filters or by washing after returning indoors.


Concern has arisen about benzophenone (BP) ultraviolet (UV) radiation filters, given their use in sunscreen and personal-care products and their reported estrogenic and antiandrogenic activity.

We recruited 501 couples who were discontinuing use of contraceptives in order to become pregnant for the Longitudinal Investigation of Fertility and the Environment (LIFE) Study (Michigan and Texas, 2005–2009). Couples provided urine specimens and completed daily journals until they either achieved pregnancy or had tried for 12 months. Women used fertility monitors to time sexual intercourse and digital pregnancy tests.

Urinary concentrations of 5 UV filters (ng/mL) were determined using triple-quadrupole mass spectrometry: 2,4-dihydroxybenzophenone (also called BP-1); 2,2′,4,4′-tetrahydroxybenzophenone (BP-2); 2-hydroxy-4-methoxybenzophenone (BP-3); 2,2′-dihydroxy-4-methoxybenzophenone (BP-8); and 4-hydroxybenzophenone. Fecundability odds ratios were estimated for each UV filter (dichotomized at the 75th percentile) and adjusted for age, creatinine concentration, body mass index (weight (kg)/height (m)2), cotinine concentration, season, and site, while accounting for time off contraception. Separate models were fitted for each UV filter and partner; final models included partners’ concentrations.

Male partners’ concentrations of BP-2 and 4-hydroxybenzophenone were associated with reduced fecundity in adjusted models (fecundability odds ratio (FOR) = 0.69 (95% confidence interval (CI): 0.50, 0.95) and FOR = 0.74 (95% CI: 0.54, 1.00), respectively). In models adjusting for both partners’ concentrations, male BP-2 concentration remained associated with reduced fecundity (FOR = 0.69, 95% CI: 0.49, 0.97).

These data suggest that male exposure to select UV filters may diminish couples’ fecundity, resulting in a longer time to pregnancy.

Sources and more information
  • NIH study links ultraviolet filters to pregnancy delays,
    NIH News, November 14, 2014.
  • Urinary Concentrations of Benzophenone-Type Ultraviolet Radiation Filters and Couples’ Fecundity, American Journal of Epidemiology 10.1093/aje/kwu285, September 15, 2014.
  • Something in your sunblock may be causing fertility problems, CNN, November 15, 2014.

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