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IVF children do not have increased cancer risk

5 July 2021
Appeared in BioNews 1102

Children born as a result of fertility treatment are no more likely to develop cancer than naturally conceived children, according to a new study.

Research from the Netherlands presented at the meeting of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology 2021 showed no difference in cancer risk between children conceived by IVF, children conceived naturally by women with fertility issues and the general population. 

Dr Mandy Spaan from the Amsterdam University Medical Centre and Netherlands Cancer Institute described the findings as 'quite reassuring, especially for children conceived by IVF'.

The research looked at almost 100,000 children born to women who had been treated at IVF clinics in the Netherlands between 1983-2012. Roughly half of the children were born as a result of IVF, and the rest were conceived in vivo, either with or without ovarian stimulation. The children's health was followed for 17 years on average.

The children born following IVF did not have increased overall cancer risk compared to the group conceived naturally by subfertile women, nor compared to the general population. Of the participants followed into adulthood, no differences in cancer prevalence were observed.

The proportion of IVF cycles where ICSI and/or frozen embryo transfers take place has risen rapidly over the past few years, so when breaking down the data further, the researchers wanted to look at cancer risk in these two groups. They found no discernible differences in cancer risk between children born from fresh or frozen embryo transfers.

There was a small increase in the likelihood of cancer for children conceived using ICSI, but the authors warn that this was mostly due to four cases of melanoma, and that further research would be necessary to understand if this was a true association or down to chance.  

The authors were motivated to undertake the study by theories that early embryonic development could be influenced by the embryo's environment prior to implanting in the womb. The precise effects of freezing and thawing, different culture media and interventions such as ICSI could all potentially have an impact.

Dr Spaan has previously published results about ovarian cancer risk in women who have had IVF (see BioNews 1073).

SOURCES & REFERENCES
Cancer risk in ART children and young adults is not increased
European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology |  28 June 2021
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