High cancer risk for IVF babies


Children conceived with IVF have a higher risk of developing cancer than those conceived naturally, according to a study published in the journal JAMA Network Open this week. “The increased risk was 2-fold higher for children conceived via in vitro fertilization than for children conceived naturally,” say the authors.

"IVF-conceived children are at about one-third greater risk of birth defects compared to their naturally-conceived counterparts, as well as at higher risk of childhood cancer, although in absolute terms these numbers are small," the lead author, Barbara Luke, of Michigan State University, East Lansing, told MedPage Today.

"An unresolved question in assisted reproduction research remains the contribution of parental versus treatment factors to adverse outcomes," Luke said..

The researchers used birth data from Massachusetts, New York, Texas and North Carolina between 2004 and 2016. They cross-referenced them with birth defect registries, cancer registries, and reported clinical results from the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology. They only considered babies conceived with their parents' gametes, excluding frozen gametes, to get as close as possible to the conditions of natural conception.

Finally, they ruled out babies born before 22 weeks of pregnancy or weighing less than 300 grams. The study thus covered more than a million children conceived naturally and approximately 53,000 conceived by in-vitro fertilization.

The researchers found several notable differences between the two groups.

  • 1.8% of babies conceived naturally have congenital malformations, compared to 2.4% in the group of babies conceived by IVF,
  • All babies with non-chromosomal abnormalities have a higher risk of cancer. The risk is multiplied by 2.07 for babies conceived naturally and by 4.04 for IVF babies.

“With IVF births rising worldwide, further investigations into these associations are warranted,” the authors write.

Michael Cook is editor of BioEdge




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