Affiliation: University of L'Aquila, Dept. of Life, Health, and Environmental Sciences, Via Vetoio, 67100 L'Aquila, Italy.
Unlike men, who have continuous spermatogenesis throughout most of their lifetime, women are born with a fixed supply of follicles, and this number progressively declines with age until the menopause. Beside age, the speed of follicle depletion can be regulated by genetic, hormonal and environmental influences. In the course of their lives, women are exposed to multiple chemicals and radiation sources that can increase the chance of developing permanent infertility and premature ovarian failure (POF). A wealth of experimental data indicate that iatrogenic (chemotherapy, radiotherapy) and xenobiotic agents (e.g., chemicals, pharmaceuticals) are potent ovotoxicants capable of accelerating ovarian reserve depletion. In the present review we reported the negative effects exerted on mammalian ovary by some widely diffused environmental chemicals, as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and dithiocarbamate mancozeb, and by 1-3 butadiene and 4-vinylcycloexene, two occupational chemicals known to be capable of inducing ovarian cancer and infertility. Furthermore, attention has been devoted to the consequences of chemo- and radiotherapy on the ovary, both known to affect reproductive lifespan. Our increasing understanding of metabolic alterations induced by these agents is fundamental to individuate new therapeutic strategies aimed to prevent ovarian dysfunction in fertile women.