No Link Between Fertility Treatment and Overall Risk of Childhood Cancer

CURE, Spring 2014, Volume 13, Issue 1

An analysis of several studies found the risk of cancer in children born through IVF is low.

More than 1 percent of babies currently born in the U.S. have been conceived using assisted reproductive technology (ART), most commonly with in vitro fertilization (IVF).

IVF involves retrieving eggs from a woman’s ovaries, fertilizing them with sperm to produce embryos and then implanting one or more embryos into a woman’s body. Questions have been raised about whether this process increases the risk of developing pediatric cancer in children born through IVF. A recent study published in The New England Journal of Medicine found no such overall risk.

In the largest study of its kind, researchers looked at data from more than 100,000 children in Great Britain who had been born after ART between 1992 and 2008 and discovered they had no greater overall risk of developing childhood cancer before the age of 15 than those in the general population.

While the risk of developing leukemia, neuroblastoma, retinoblastoma, or central nervous system, renal or germ-cell tumors was not greater than expected, the study did find a slightly increased risk in two rare cancers: hepatoblastoma, a liver cancer; and rhabdomyosarcoma, a soft tissue cancer. But, in general, the risks of developing these two cancers are low, so questions remain about whether they can be linked to ART or other causes.