IVF linked to breast cancer
Women who try to start a family using IVF may be putting themselves at greater risk of breast cancer.
Those who have had fertility treatment are 10 per cent more likely to get breast cancer, according to a study described as a ‘wake-up call’.
Women aged 40 and over may have an even higher risk, being 65 per cent more likely to be diagnosed.
The danger is believed to come from powerful drugs which are used to stimulate women’s ovaries so they produce more eggs for IVF.
That triggers female hormone oestrogen, which is needed to grow eggs but is also linked to breast cancer.
Researchers led by the University of Copenhagen tracked more than 600,000 women for up to 21 years during the study, which was presented at the annual meeting of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE) in Vienna.
Commenting on the findings, fertility expert Professor Geeta Nargund, a lead consultant at London’s St George’s Hospital and medical director of Create Fertility, said: ‘This is a wake-up call about the use of high dose stimulation in IVF, especially in women over the age of 40.
‘We must act now as a precaution.’
The researchers looked at all women given fertility treatment, including IVF, at clinics in Denmark between 1994 and 2015.
These 58,534 women were compared to more than 560,000 women matched for age who had not used fertility clinics.
The risk of breast cancer was 10 per cent higher in women who had received fertility treatment, with eight in every 1,000 women diagnosed.
That compared with six in every 1,000 women who had not had a fertility procedure such as IVF.
Researchers looked at women who were aged 40 or over when they gave birth to their first child, finding those who used fertility treatment had a 65 per cent higher risk of breast cancer.
This may be because older women sometimes need a higher dose of drugs to stimulate their ovaries, and are more vulnerable to the oestrogen these drugs trigger.
Dr Jane Stewart, chair of the British Fertility Society, said: ‘We shouldn’t be complacent about long-term effects.
‘Previous studies have been reassuring of breast cancer but clearly the discussion is not closed.’
But Dr Roy Farquharson, the president of ESHRE from Liverpool Women’s Hospital, said the effect was ‘marginal’ and more studies are needed.
Examples of these fertility drugs or ovarian stimulating drugs are bromocriptine, metformin, gonadotropins, letrozole, and clomiphene citrate (clomid).
Now that IVF have been linked to breast cancer, what is the way forward?
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