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IVF Babies May Have Slightly Higher Cancer Risk

Researchers Say Infertility, Not in Vitro Fertilization, May Be Behind Elevated Cancer Risk
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IVF Babies and Cancer Risk: Why?

The study found an association, not cause and effect. And Kallen says the increased cancer risk is probably not caused by the IVF procedure itself.

He suspects factors such as complications in the newborn, or something about the infertility itself.

Other studies have found children born via IVF have an increased risk for health complications early in life and for more birth defects, Kallen writes. Some recent research, however, has found that the risk of birth defects in IVF babies is not much different than those in the general population.

Of his finding, Kallen says, "This is just one further slight complication.''

IVF Babies and Cancer Risk: Message for Parents

What's the message for those undergoing or considering IVF? "I think that any couple who considers IVF should know that there is a moderately increased risk for complications for their children-to-be," Kallen says.

It's also important, he says, to maintain perspective. "Most IVF pregnancies end with the birth of a living, normal child, and the risk should not be exaggerated."

He suspects the findings from the Swedish study would hold true for the U.S. population but can't say that with certainty.

IVF Experts Weigh In

The new study findings are looked on as important by two IVF experts who reviewed the study for WebMD.

Although previous research has suggested IVF is associated with an increased cancer risk for the babies, the new study is believed to be the first to show a scientifically strong link, says William Gibbons, president of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine and professor and director of the division of reproductive medicine at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.

''More [studies] will help validate," he says. Based on what researchers know now, he says, "we think the risk is small."

He agrees with Kallen that the increased cancer risk may be associated with the infertility, not the IVF itself. "Avoiding IVF may not make the risk go away," he tells WebMD.

"The bottom line is this: If there is a risk, it is a small risk," James Goldfarb, MD, director of infertility and IVF at the Cleveland Clinic and president of the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technologies.

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