Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Infertility & Reproduction Health Center

Font Size

IVF Babies May Have Slightly Higher Cancer Risk

Researchers Say Infertility, Not in Vitro Fertilization, May Be Behind Elevated Cancer Risk
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

July 19, 2010 -- Children conceived by in vitro fertilization, more commonly called IVF babies, have a slightly higher risk of developing childhood cancer than babies conceived naturally, according to a new Swedish study.

But the study's main author emphasizes that childhood cancer is relatively rare and that the increased risk is small to moderate, and probably not caused by the IVF procedure itself but perhaps linked to the infertility.

"There is an increased risk for cancer in children born via IVF, but it's rather small," researcher Bengt Kallen, MD, PhD, a retired professor of embryology and head of the Tornblad Institute, University of Lund, Lund, Germany, tells WebMD. "The estimate that we give is that the risk increases 40%, but the estimate has, of course, a degree of uncertainty.”

The study is published in the journal Pediatrics.

IVF Babies and Cancer Risk: Study Details

Kallen and his colleagues evaluated 26,692 Swedish children born via IVF from 1982 to 2005 using the Swedish Cancer Registry and comparing the number of children who had cancer and were conceived via IVF with those not conceived by IVF.

The new study adds to data from a previous study by the same researchers, which included evaluations of nearly 17,000 children. That study found nearly the same risk, but in the current study, the link is stronger.

The researchers took into account variables such as maternal age, number of pregnancies, previous miscarriages, body mass index, and other factors. They found 53 cases of cancer in children born via IVF, while 38 would have been expected statistically in the population.

The cancers included leukemia, central nervous system cancers, eye cancer, other solid tumors, and a condition called Langerhans histiocytosis (a condition in which there is an excess of a type of white blood cell). Experts don't agree whether it is a true cancer, the researchers write. But even when they excluded the six cases of histiocytosis, the increased risk still held for IVF babies and cancers, although it went down to a 34% increased risk.

Overall, considering all the cancers found, the IVF babies were 1.4 times, or about 40%, more likely to have a cancer during the follow-up period, through 2006.

1 | 2 | 3

Today on WebMD

Four pregnant women standing in a row
How much do you know about conception?
Couple with surrogate mother
Which one is right for you?
couple lying in grass holding hands
Why Dad's health matters.
couple viewing positive pregnancy test
6 ways to improve your chances.
Which Treatment Is Right For You
Conception Myths
eddleman prepare your body pregnancy
Charting Your Fertility Cycle
Fertility Specialist
Understanding Fertility Symptoms
invitro fertilization

WebMD Special Sections