Experts have raised concerns about the relatively unknown practice of ‘testicle tanning’ after Fox News host Tucker Carlson promoted the treatment in a trailer for an upcoming documentary, saying that it does nothing to boost testosterone levels – as it advertises it can – and could even harm male fertility.
A trailer for the Tucker Carlson Originals season two episode ‘The End of Men’ aired Sunday, showing scenes of half-naked men shooting guns, milking cows, wrestling, chopping down trees and taking part in other normal manly activities.
Then, the camera cut to a man, fully naked, on a mountaintop, spread out in a star position with his testicles in-front of a device that appears to be shining a red light onto them.
Carlson and an expert he brings on then discuss how this process can help save masculinity by raising testosterone (T) levels. Experts tell DailyMail.com that there is no reason to believe this is true, and that ‘testicle tanning’ can hurt a man’s fertility by harming their sperm.
A bizarre ad for an episode of Fox’s ‘Tucker Carlson Originals’ aired this week, featuring a naked man standing on a mountain taking part in a practice called ‘testicle tanning’
Carlson and an expert discussed on the show how testicle tanning could help save America from ‘The End of Men’ because it would raise T levels and help fertility
Dr Helen Bernie, a doctor of sexual reproductive health at Indiana University, told DailyMail.com that some people believe red light therapy works by boosting levels of a molecule called ATP that creates energy.
Red light therapy, which is what the testicle tanning shown by Carlson’s show actually is, does stimulate ATP, and Bernie explains that this has led amateur biologists to believe that energizing cells around the testicles can boost T levels.
There is no data to support this, though, with only minimal studies carried out and none finding strong evidence that directly ties the light to higher T levels.
Other experts tell DailyMail.com the same. Dr Amin Herati, a professor of urology at Johns Hopkins University, said that the red light would not be strong enough to even affect the testicles, as it would have trouble penetrating the scrotum.
‘I’m doubtful it could penetrate that many levels of tissue,’ Herati said.
If anything, he believes it could actually harm the production of T, along sperm with sperm counts and sperm activity as the electro-magnetic frequency could neutralize some cells.
Dr Seth Cohen, a male sexual and reproductive health expert at NYU Langone Health told DailyMail.com that he had ‘never heard of it.’
He also, like Herati, noted that the process is actually doing little to your testicles since there are a few layers of skin protecting it.
‘It’s important to remember, you’re not tanning your testicles, [you] are tanning your skin,’ Cohen said.
Cohen often treats men having issues with male fertility, and heat therapy is often the opposite of what he would recommend for them.
‘You can actually be doing damage and harm to the testicles,’ he explained.
‘When men come see me about fertility problems and low sperm counts… [I advise] behavioral practices… [I] don’t recommend hot tubs and saunas. Heat will damage sperm, and prevent healthy sperm from being formed.
‘[Testicle tanning is] probably a bad idea for multiple reasons.’
All three experts note that the actual danger of the process is relatively low. While longtime exposure to the light on the testicles can cause a skin cancer like melanoma, there is also that risk with just exposure to sunlight,
The real risk comes as an opportunity cost, though. Herati notes that ‘testosterone and fertility are barometers of our health,’ so a man suffering from low T levels or from low sperm count does likely have something that needs to be fixed.
Declining T levels across America are being blamed for ‘The End of Men’, but Herati says these are likely caused by increased levels of diabetes, obesity and other conditions that harm male fertility
Bernie warned not to take medical advice from TV personalities such as Tucker Carlson, but to instead consult a doctor about concerns a person may have about T levels and fertility
If a man is spending thousands of dollars of treatments like red light therapy instead of going to an actual doctor, their true issue will be missed, and could even exacerbate.
‘They could be missing a bigger underlying condition,’ he said.
Common causes of low T and other fertility issues are obesity, diabetes, a sedentary lifestyle, pollutants in the air, poor sleep habits, depression, anxiety and more.
These are all treatable, and a doctor could help a manage their condition in a way that boosts their fertility in the process.
Herati says that he has seen data pointing to T levels in American men falling in recent decades, but rather than pointing to a perceived ‘crisis in masculinity’, he instead points to growing levels of all the underlying conditions that cause low T.
Bernie and Cohen both say that they have seen data supporting the idea that T levels are falling in the U.S., but have also seen data that shows the opposite.
Bernie also notes that their may be a placebo affect at play here. Light therapy is known to treat depression, and treating the mental health condition properly will also lead to better fertility.
More than anything, though, she says that it is important for people to listen to trained doctors for their medical treatment, rather than the word of TV personalities who are trying to sell them something.
‘I would want to caution patients that are hearing these things, just because you are hearing it from a famous personality doesn’t make it true… go see a doctor who specializes in men’s healthy,’ she said.