Objective. Hypospadias is a common congenital anomaly, the cause of which is unknown. Unexplained increases in the rates of hypospadias occurred in five European countries in the 1970s and 1980s. We examined data from two birth defects surveillance systems in the United States for evidence of similar trends.

Methodology. The Metropolitan Atlanta Congenital Defects Program (MACDP) provided birth prevalence rates from 1968 to 1993. The nationwide Birth Defects Monitoring Program (BDMP) provided rates from 1970 to 1993. MACDP data are population-based and could be categorized by the severity of the hypospadias. BDMP data allowed analysis of rate trends for the four census regions of the United States.

Results. Data from both surveillance systems showed an approximate doubling of hypospadias rates in the 1970s and 1980s. MACDP data showed that the rate of severe cases increased while the ratio of mild to severe cases decreased. BDMP data showed that hypospadias rates increased markedly in all four regions of the United States.

Conclusions. The observed increases are unlikely to be attributable to increased sensitivity of the surveillance systems or the identification of more mild cases by physicians over time, because either trend would have increased rather than decreased the ratio of mild to severe cases. If real, these trends represent the largest number of cases and the first report of an increase in hypospadias rates outside of Europe. Additional investigation of a possible increase in hypospadias rates is warranted.

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