Children Conceived through Fertility Procedures May Face Increased Cancer, Leukemia Risks: Study

The findings of a recent study suggest that children born following use of assisted reproductive technology, or fertility treatments, may face a higher risk of developing leukemia and Hodgkin’s lymphoma. 

Researchers reviewed the birth and cancer data of more than 1.6 million children born in Norway, and found children born using fertility procedures, such as vitro fertilization (IVF), have a 67% higher risk developing leukemia. The researchers also found a threefold increased risk of Hodgkin’s lymphoma among children born using assisted reproductive technology (ART), including IVF, artificial insemination and medication.

The findings were published in the March issue of the journal Pediatrics, examining data from the Medical Birth Registry of Norway, which has data on all children born in that country.

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Researchers focused on births between 1984 and 2011, as well as information of assisted reproductive technology conceptions. They also examined cancer data obtained from the Cancer Registry of Norway. Follow-up began at birth and ended on the date of first cancer diagnosis, death, emigration to another country, or Dec. 31, 2011.

The data included more than 1.6 million children, 25,782 conceived by assisted reproductive technology and a total of 4,554 cancers. A smaller portion, 51, were cancers that occurred in ART-conceived children.

Dr. Marte Myhre, lead author of the study from the Norwegian National Advisory Unit on Women’s Health at Oslo University Hospital, said the overall risk of cancer from fertility procedures was not significantly elevated; but, children conceived following assisted reproductive technology had an increased risk of leukemia and an elevated risk of Hodgkin’s lymphoma compared to those who were conceived naturally.

The risk of leukemia in children born using reproductive technology was 67% higher and a tripled risk of Hodgkin’s lymphoma was revealed. Both cancers affect the blood cells.

Prior research has shown a link between fertility treatments and increased risk of developing mental disorders, including mental retardation, autism, hyperactivity, emotional and social conduct disorders. The 2013 study found children born to mothers who used artificial insemination had a 18 percent increased risk of developing a mental disorder.

Researchers say other factors should also be considered before linking a cause and effect relationship to fertility treatments. Many mothers who use IVF and other reproductive technologies conceived at an older age. Parental genetics or the factors that contributed to the parents infertility may also play a role.


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