Assessing the impact of in-utero exposures: potential effects of paracetamol on male reproductive development

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Abstract

Human male reproductive disorders (cryptorchidism, hypospadias, testicular cancer and low sperm counts) are common and some may be increasing in incidence worldwide. These associated disorders can arise from subnormal testosterone production during fetal life. This has resulted in a focus on in-utero environmental influences that may result in reproductive effects on the offspring in later life. Over recent years, there has been a dramatic increase in the scientific literature describing associations between in-utero environmental exposures (eg, industrial chemicals and pharmaceuticals) and subsequent reproductive outcomes in male offspring. This includes studies investigating a potential role for in-utero analgesic exposure(s) on the fetal testis; however, providing definitive evidence of such effects presents numerous challenges. In this review, we describe an approach to assessing the potential clinical relevance of in-utero (and postnatal) environmental exposures on subsequent male reproductive function using exposure to the analgesic paracetamol as an example.

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