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Study reassures over fertility drug cancer risk

Monday February 9th, 2009

Women's risk of ovarian cancer does not appear to be raised by the use of fertility drugs, new research has found.

It is widely thought that ovarian cancer risk falls after pregnancy, but that fertility drugs may lead to DNA damage and potentially cause cancer of the epithelial cells surrounding the ovary.

As a growing number of women are undergoing fertility treatment, Dr Allan Jensen and colleagues at the Institute of Cancer Epidemiology, Copenhagen, Denmark, examined the link. They recruited 54,362 women referred to Danish fertility clinics from 1963 to 1998, of whom 156 developed invasive epithelial ovarian cancer.

On the website of the British Medical Journal, the authors say there was "no overall increased risk of ovarian cancer after any use of the fertility drugs gonadotrophins, clomifene, human chorionic gonadotrophin, or gonadotrophin releasing hormone".

They also found no indication that risk was increased in women who had undergone ten or more cycles of treatment or in those who never became pregnant.

They conclude that the results provide reassuring evidence for the absence of an association between use of fertility drugs and risk of ovarian cancer. However, they add that continued follow-up is needed as many of the women have not yet reached the peak age for ovarian cancer.

In an editorial, Dr Penelope Webb of the Queensland Institute of Medical Research, Brisbane, Australia, writes that despite "considerable debate" over the issue, the current evidence shows no increased risk. She agrees that the results are reassuring, although concludes that "small increases in risk cannot yet be ruled out".

The British Medical Journal, 2009;338:b249, a3075.

Tags: Australia | Cancer | Childbirth and Pregnancy | Europe | Women’s Health & Gynaecology

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