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Higher risk of childhood cancer for those born from women with fertility problems

5 August 2013
Appeared in BioNews 716

Children born from mothers with fertility problems are at a higher risk of developing cancers during childhood and young adulthood, according to a large Danish study.

The study authors reported findings of an 18 percent overall increase in risk for cancer in childhood and a 22 percent overall increase in risk for cancer in young adulthood.

Researchers from the Danish Cancer Society Research Centre studied 2,830,054 people born in Denmark between 1964 and 2006. From hospital and National Patient Registry records, they found that 125,844 of these children were born to mothers who had experienced fertility problems. They then cross-referenced this information with Danish Cancer Registry data and discovered that these children had a higher risk of developing cancers than those conceived naturally.

The study reported a 30 percent increased risk for leukaemia in children, and claimed that young adults had a 2.7 times higher risk for endocrine-related cancers. Overall, the study identified 7,418 cases of childhood cancer, and 5,128 cases of cancer in young adults.

'If real, our findings would mean about four additional cases of childhood cancer and about nine additional cases of cancer in young adults per 100,000 exposed offspring', the team wrote in the International Journal of Cancer.

The new study appears to contrast with results presented at the annual meeting of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE) that said children born in the UK as a result of assisted conception from 1992 to 2008 were not at a higher risk of developing cancer during childhood than those conceived spontaneously (reported in BioNews 713).

Dr Allan Pacey, senior lecturer in andrology at the University of Sheffield, said: 'It cannot be concluded from the paper that the risk was elevated because these women conceived their children following infertility treatments, because the authors did not have access to that data, and some of the women were recruited in 1964 before modern infertility treatments such as IVF were invented! Indeed, UK data presented at the recent ESHRE meeting in London linking HFEA data with the UK childhood cancer registry showed that IVF did not elevate the risk of childhood cancer'.

The authors of the study conceded that further research was needed, to understand whether the increased cancer risk was related to use of fertility drugs or simply to fertility problems in women.

Expert reaction to fertility problems in women and cancer risk in their children
Science Media Centre |  30 July 2013
'Increased cancer risk to children born to women with fertility issues'
Daily Telegraph |  30 July 2013
Increased risk for cancer among offspring of women with fertility problems
International Journal of Cancer |  25 March 2013
8 April 2019 - by Dr Rosie Morley 
Some rare childhood cancers may be more common in children born through IVF, according to a recent study...
23 November 2015 - by Dr Molly Godfrey 
A substantial proportion of childhood cancers are caused by mutations in genes that are known to cause cancer in adults, scientists have found...
9 July 2013 - by Siobhan Chan 
Children born as a result of assisted reproduction do not have a higher risk of developing cancer during childhood than those conceived spontaneously, according to a large UK study...
25 February 2013 - by Dr Lucy Freem 
IVF treatment is not associated with an increase in breast, cervical or endometrial cancer, according to analysis of thousands of patient medical records. Ovarian cancer risk was also examined but too few people with ovarian cancer were included in the study for a conclusive result to be shown either way...
21 January 2013 - by Cathy Holding 
Women who conceive using IVF are at a higher risk of lethal blood clots during pregnancy compared to women who conceive naturally...
19 November 2012 - by Dr Nicola Davis 
Infants conceived by IVF are at significantly greater risk of birth defects compared to naturally conceived babies, announced scientists at a conference last month...
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