Children born through fertility treatments not at higher risk for cancer

Good news for couples considering fertility treatments: Children born through assisted reproductive technology, or ART, have no increased risk of cancer, researchers say.

In the new study, children born through high-tech fertility treatments — such as in vitro fertilization or IVF and frozen embryo transfer or FET — were followed for an average of 18 years.

The results should be “quite reassuring, especially for children conceived through IVF, and contribute significantly to current knowledge about health risks in ART offspring,” said study author Dr. Mandy Spaan, of the Amsterdam University Medical Center and the Netherlands Cancer Center. Institute.

The researchers noted that there is mounting evidence that fertility drugs, egg/embryo freezing and thawing, and the type of medium in which embryos are cultured as part of fertility treatments can affect genetic changes that normally occur in an embryo before it is placed in the womb. implanted.

To find out whether that increases the risk of cancer in children, the researchers analyzed data from the Netherlands from more than 51,000 children born through fertility treatments between 1983 and 2012.

The researchers compared them to nearly 38,000 conceived naturally by subfertile women with and without fertility drugs between 1975 and 2012. The ART procedures included IVF, intracytoplasmic sperm injection, or ICSI, and frozen embryo transfer.

157 cancers were diagnosed in children in the ART group and 201 in the non-ART group. Those in the ART group had no overall increased risk of cancer, the study found.

When analyzed by type of fertility treatment, children conceived through IVF had no significantly increased risk of cancer.

ICSI children were more likely to develop cancer, but this was mainly due to an increased risk of melanoma skin cancer — four cases — which the researchers say may be due to chance.

Children born after FET had no higher risk of cancer than children born after fresh embryo transfer, the findings showed.

The study was presented Monday at the virtual annual meeting of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology.

The study could help doctors educate patients considering fertility treatments about the potential health risks to their children, and provide gynecologists with “evidence-based information about the link between ART and cancer risk in children and adolescents,” Spaan said in a society news release.

Because this study was presented at a medical meeting, the findings should be considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.

More information

The US National Institute of Child Health and Human Development has more about ART.

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