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Infertility & Reproduction Health Center

IVF May Raise Risk for Less Aggressive Ovarian Cancer

Study Shows Increased Risk for 'Borderline' Ovarian Tumors in Women Who Had In Vitro Fertilization
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Tracking Ovarian Tumors continued...

Still, the odds of getting any type of ovarian cancer were low, even with IVF. The risk is similarly low in the U.S. Most U.S. women diagnosed with ovarian cancer are older than 60, and it accounts for only 3% of all women's cancers. About 12 in 100,000 women were diagnosed with ovarian cancer in the U.S. in 2006. 

Never having children increases the risk for ovarian cancer, so women with fertility problems are already at greater risk. Researchers have questioned for some time whether IVF treatment increases that risk.

Role of IVF

There is still the possibility that something about fertility issues, rather than IVF treatment, makes women more likely to develop borderline ovarian tumors.

"You could easily reason that the ovaries of the women in the IVF group are more resistant to pregnancy than the other subfertile [women with fertility problems] group. It could be that there is some connection between severity of infertility and risk for a tumor," says Joe Leigh Simpson, MD, a gynecologist and past president of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine.

The results of the Dutch study are also based on IVF treatments used before 1995. Today's IVF treatments are different. "Enormous changes have occurred in the last 10-15 years. It's not necessary to stimulate women's ovaries as heavily as we did at one time," Simpson says.

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