With any new medical treatment there are risks, and the situation is made even trickier by the fact that in most cases we cannot accurately track many of these risks until years – sometimes decades – after the treatment has become commonplace. That’s why this new research into cancer rates among women who have undergone in vitro fertilization (IVF) is answering questions posed for over thirty years.
Cancer related to IVF a Long-Time Concern
The concerns about cancer don’t stem from the IVF process itself, but rather the methods used to treat prospective mothers and prepare them for the procedure. These medications allow fertility specialists to suppress and stimulate the pituitary gland to control hormone levels, better target ovulation, and have more direct control over the body’s internal fertility process.
Understandably, this level of treatment requires multiple medications and numerous injections, and since the time of the first IVF procedure in 1978 doctors have been concerned that so much manipulation of a woman’s internal processes could have unintended long-term consequences, including cancer.
This most recent study involved comparing the records of over 67,000 women who had undergone IVF. They then looked at these women’s cancer rates and compared them to cancer rates throughout the female population as a whole.
Past studies have proven inconclusive, but the researchers behind this latest study – led by the National Cancer Institute’s Louise Brinton – believe that their findings strongly support the fact that women undergoing IVF do not suffer from an increased risk of gynecological cancers. They called their findings “largely reassuring,” but cautioned that women who have undergone the procedure should still be monitored closely.
With that said, researchers still feel that they’ve gathered strong evidence showing that the increased risk of developing breast cancer or most gynecological cancers is minimal or nonexistent for women who have undergone IVF.
The one exception to this is ovarian cancer. Researchers found the possibility of a slightly increased risk of ovarian cancer among the women studied. While it was not enough to demonstrate a significant risk, the doctors performing the study couldn’t rule out the possibility, either. Of the 67,608 IVF recipients included in the study, 45 developed ovarian cancer later in life.
In general, this new research should be seen as very encouraging for women looking to IVF to solve fertility issues.