Men with a Hodgkin's lymphoma who want to have children after cancer treatment stand a better chance of fatherhood if they have their sperm frozen and stored before beginning treatment, according to a new study. Freezing semen, a process known as cryopreservation, preserves sperm indefinitely for future use.

The study, published in the European medical journal Human Reproduction, was the first to study how freezing sperm before cancer treatment would affect fatherhood after treatment. The researchers questioned 902 men from five European nations who had survived Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Of these men, 363 had their sperm frozen before treatment; 78 of these men used the frozen sperm after finishing their cancer treatments.

The researchers found that, among the 334 men who wanted children, men who had frozen semen had double the chances for fatherhood when compared with those who had not arranged for cryopreservation before cancer treatment.

Hodgkin’s lymphoma, sometimes called Hodgkin’s disease, is cancer of the lymph tissue, found in lymph nodes, liver, spleen, bone marrow and other locations in the body. Lymphoma starts in white blood cells. The body loses its ability to fight infections as the disease progresses. Early diagnosis combined with effective treatments, like surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy, greatly increase survival rates for patients suffering from Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Treatment for Hodgkin’s lymphoma usually involves chemotherapy and radiation to kill existing cancer cells and prevent them from spreading. Chemotherapy drugs affect the entire body and frequently cause fertility problems in more than 80 percent of men. Men who are about to begin chemotherapy for newly diagnosed Hodgkin’s lymphoma are four times more likely to undergo semen cryopreservation; they are twice as likely to freeze their semen before chemotherapy following a relapse.

The research underscored the importance of cryopreservation before cancer treatment: one of five children born to study participants after treatment for Hodgkin’s disease was born using preserved semen. The author of the study urged clinicians to offer cryopreservation to all male patients before they begin cancer treatment. Freezing semen is inexpensive, easy, and reliable.

Source: European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryol. "Freezing sperm Improves the chances of fatherhood after treatment for Hodgkin lymphoma." Medical News Today. MediLexicon, Intl., 23 Dec. 2013. Web. 30 Dec. 2013.