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Infertility drug cancer link not proved

Tuesday July 1st, 2014

Women who have taken fertility drugs may not need to worry about risk of hormone-related cancer, researchers said yesterday.

A major study have found "little evidence" of any link between the treatments women take to stimulate fertility and risk of cancers of the breast, ovary and womb.

All three cancers can be caused by hormone imbalances and women who seek medical help to become pregnant may be prescribed hormone-based treatments to stimulate fertility.

The latest study was conducted over 30 years, involving more than 12,000 women, and was reported to the conference of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology in Munich, Germany.

The researchers found two instances in which treatments might be linked to cancer - although the increased risk could also be linked to the specific kind of infertility from which the women suffered.

One was a group of women who unsuccessfully took gonadotrophins - which are commonly used now. The second group involved women who took clomiphene citrate 12 times or more - and they faced an increased risk of breast cancer.

Researcher Dr Humberto Scoccia, from the University of Illinois at Chicago, USA, said the findings were "generally reassuring" but warned of "unresolved questions."

He said: "Despite the biologic plausibility, results of studies of fertility drugs and breast and gynaecological cancers present a mixed picture, with some showing increases in risk, others decreases, and still others showing no substantial associations.

"However, most of these studies had small numbers with relatively short follow-up periods, and were unable to control for other cancer predictors - including the indications for drug usage, such as anovulation or endometriosis, which could independently affect cancer risk. Many questions remain unresolved."

* A second study at the conference warns of an increased risk of psychiatric disorder faced by children born after fertility treatment.

The findings come from a study of some 2.4 million children in Denmark born between 1969 and 2006. Some 124,000 were born to women with fertility problems.

Children born in spite of fertility problems had a 33% increased risk of developing a psychiatric disorder.

Researcher Dr Allan Jensen, of Copenhagen University, said: "It is generally believed that underlying infertility has a more important role in adverse effects in the offspring than the treatment procedures. It is known, for example, that psychiatric disorders to some degree have a genetic component."

Tags: Cancer | Childbirth and Pregnancy | Europe | North America | Pharmaceuticals | Women’s Health & Gynaecology

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