TUESDAY, June 29, 2021 — Good news for couples considering fertility treatments: Children born through assisted reproductive technology (ART) don’t have an increased risk of cancer, researchers say.
In the new study, kids born through high-tech fertility treatments — such as in vitro fertilization (IVF) and frozen embryo transfer (FET) — were followed for 18 years on average.
The results should be “quite reassuring, especially for children conceived by IVF, and are an important contribution to the current knowledge about health risks in ART-offspring,” said study author Dr. Mandy Spaan, of Amsterdam University Medical Center and the Netherlands Cancer Institute.
The researchers noted there’s growing evidence that fertility drugs, egg/embryo freezing and thawing, and the type of medium in which embryos are grown as part of fertility treatments could affect genetic changes that occur normally in an embryo before it’s implanted in the womb.
To find out if that increases the risk of cancer in children, the researchers analyzed data from the Netherlands on more than 51,000 children born through fertility treatments between 1983 and 2012. The investigators compared them with 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 (ICSI) and frozen embryo transfer.
There were 157 cancers diagnosed among children in the ART group and 201 in the non-ART group. Those in the ART group didn’t have an overall increased risk of cancer, the study found.
When analyzed by type of fertility treatment, children conceived by IVF did not have a significantly increased risk of cancer. ICSI children were more likely to get cancer, but this was mainly due to an increased risk of melanoma skin cancer (four cases), which may be due to chance, according to the researchers.
Children born after FET did not have a higher risk of cancer than those born after a 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 may help doctors inform patients considering fertility treatments about the potential health risks for their children, and provide gynecologists with “evidence-based information about the association between ART and cancer risk in children and adolescents,” Spaan said in a society news release.
Because this research was presented at a medical meeting, the findings should be considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.
- European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology, news release, June 28, 2021
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Posted June 2021