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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).

Cancer risk in ART children and young adults is not increased
European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology |  28 June 2021
1 March 2021 - by Annabel Slater 
In 1978, in the run-up to the birth of Louise Brown, the first IVF baby, the media speculated greatly over whether she would be normal. 'Had there been anything at all wrong with me,' Brown has reflected, 'I think it would have been the end of IVF'...
23 November 2020 - by Dr Molly Godfrey 
Women who have received fertility treatment are not at increased risk of ovarian cancer, according to a new study...
2 November 2020 - by Dr Helen Robertson 
Babies born with birth defects who were conceived via IVF are more likely to develop childhood cancer compared to babies conceived naturally, a recent study has found...
16 December 2019 - by Dr Molly Godfrey 
Children born from IVF using frozen embryos may have a slightly higher chance of developing childhood cancers, according to a new large-scale study, though the overall risk remains low...
10 September 2018 - by Ruth Retassie 
People born with the aid of IVF or intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) are six times more likely to develop high blood pressure as adolescents, a preliminary study has found...
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