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Here's another reason for you to kick the butt. Research conducted at AIIMS has showed that men who smoke or consume tobacco in other forms are more likely to father children suffering from cancer.

This is so because microelements present in smoke cause oxidative stress that affects the genetic integrity of the sperm. This can also lead to infertility.

Professor Rima Dada, in charge of the laboratory for molecular reproduction and genetics at AIIMS, said sperm has minimal antioxidants and its DNA repair mechanism is also deficient, thus making it more vulnerable to oxidative DNA damage. The study, which has also been published in a recent issue of the Asian Pacific Journal of Cancer Prevention, analysed the sperm quality of 77 men whose children suffer from retinoblastoma (a type of eye cancer) and 53 fathers of healthy kids.

Dr Dada said, in all, 33 were smokers, 31 chewed tobacco and 41 indulged in both. Only 33 men did not use tobacco in any form. "We found that the quality of sperm was poor among all tobacco users. However, the damage was extensive, almost irreparable, in fathers of children with eye cancer," she added.


According to Dr Bhavna Chawla, additional professor, department of ophthalmology at AIIMS, retinoblastoma is the most common form of eye cancer in Indian children. It is a genetic disease which can run in families or be sporadic. "In the last five years, we have seen a 30% rise in such cases. This prompted us to look at the role of environmental factors like smoking-a known cause of oxidative stress. The findings make it clear that smoking must be avoided as it is bad not just for the individual, but can also harm the next generation," she said.

Eleven fathers who smoked regularly were made to take up yoga and meditation for six months at All India Institute of Medical Sciences. Dr Dada said this caused a significant decrease in markers of inflammation and a decline in seminal free radical levels. It also led to a slow but significant improvement in the DNA quality. Other environmental factors being studied as causes of sperm damage include electromagnetic radiation from mobiles, pollution and alcohol.

While the sperm count of a normal Indian adult was 60 million/ml three decades ago, it now stands at 20 million/ml. Over 12-18 million couples are diagnosed with infertility every year.

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