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Rare cancer more common in IVF children

8 April 2019
Appeared in BioNews 994

Some rare childhood cancers may be more common in children born through IVF, according to a recent study. 

In the largest study of its kind to date, researchers found that children born through IVF had a 28 percent higher risk of developing certain embryonic cancers than children who weren't conceived via IVF. Embryonic cancers arise from tumours that develop from embryonic cells that remain in the body after birth. The study also found that children born via IVF were 2.5 times more likely to develop liver cancers. 

However, the overall rate of childhood cancer was very low in both groups of children – at 0.11 percent for the IVF group and 0.09 percent for the non-IVF group. There was no difference in the rates of most other cancer types between children born through IVF and those conceived naturally. 

'The most important takeaway from our research is that most childhood cancers are not more frequent in children conceived by IVF,' said Professor Logan Spector at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, and an author of the study.

The researchers analysed the medical records of 275,686 children conceived through IVF and 2,266,847 children in the non-IVF group in the USA between 2004 and 2013. They tracked children for around four and a half years, detecting a total of 321 cancer cases in the IVF group and 2042 in the non-IVF group. This means that per year, around 252 children per million got cancer in the IVF group versus 192 per million in the group conceived naturally. 

The researchers noted that the increased risk may not be due to the process of IVF itself. Underlying factors related to the parents' infertility could also contribute to the findings. 

As well as comparing specific types of cancer between the two groups, researchers looked to see there was any effect of different IVF techniques on cancer rate – but found none. 

'There was no indication that any specific IVF procedure or treatment was associated with these cancers, so there is not really anything patients or their providers should be doing differently,' Professor Spector added. 'Overall these results should be reassuring to parents who have used IVF.'

The research was published in JAMA Pediatrics

Association of In Vitro Fertilization With Childhood Cancer in the United States
JAMA Pediatrics |  1 April 2019
Children born via IVF have slightly higher cancer risk, study finds
Daily Mail |  1 April 2019
IVF tied to slight increased risk of rare childhood cancers
Reuters |  1 April 2019
Research Brief: Largest study of childhood cancer after IVF
University of Minnesota |  1 April 2019
2 November 2020 - by Dr Helen Robertson 
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2 May 2017 - by Dr Rachel Montgomery 
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9 July 2013 - by Siobhan Chan 
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