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Assisted Conception Not Linked to Cancer Risk in Kids, Studies Say

WEDNESDAY July 10, 2013 -- Children born as the result of in vitro fertilization (IVF) and other forms of assisted reproduction do not have a higher risk of cancer than those conceived naturally, two new studies have found.

In one study, researchers examined data from more than 106,000 children born with the help of assisted reproductive technology (ART) in the United Kingdom between 1992 and 2008. During the 17-year study period, 108 cancers were identified in the ART children, which is comparable to the 109.7 cases that would be expected among the same number of children in the general population.

However, six of the ART children developed liver cancer, compared with the 1.83 cases that would be expected in the general population. This increased risk of liver cancer among ART children was also associated with a low birth weight, according to the study presented Tuesday at the annual meeting of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology, in London.

Overall, the findings are "reassuring news for couples considering assisted conception, their subsequent children, fertility specialists and for the wider public health," the researchers said in a society news release.

"This is the largest study of its kind to be reported and is unique in that the data are derived from a single country and in a homogeneous population. The absence of cancer in children -- or in adults -- can be considered a measure of long-term health resilience, so we are happy to report that in the country where IVF was first successfully applied there is no convincing evidence that ART children are at any greater risk of cancer than those naturally conceived," study principal investigator Alastair Sutcliffe, from the Institute of Child Health in London, said in the news release.

"It is true that we found increased risks of a few rare cancers, but these would need to be studied across large international datasets to confirm if they were genuine findings or just an effect of their very rareness," he added.

Another study presented at the same meeting produced similar findings. It looked at nearly 93,000 children conceived through IVF and a control group of naturally conceived children born in three Nordic countries between 1982 and 2007.

There were 143 cancer cases (19 per 1,000) among the IVF children and 626 cancer cases (18 per 1,000) in the control group. The most common cancer diagnosis was leukemia, which occurred in six per 1,000 of the IVF children and in five per 1,000 of those in the control group.

The data and conclusions of research presented at medical meetings should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development has more about assisted reproductive technology.

Posted: July 2013


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