ESHRE 2021: No increase of cancer risk for ART children

The 37th annual meeting of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology has been presented the results of a study that shows the risk of cancer in children born as a result of fertility treatment is no greater than in the general population

The detail of the 18-year study was presented online by Dr Mandy Spaan from the Amsterdam University Medical Center (UMC) and Netherlands Cancer Institute, Amsterdam.

The findings also found no difference in outcomes between ART children and those conceived by sub-fertile women who became pregnant naturally, either with or without fertility drugs to induce ovulation.

Dr Spaan described the study as “quite reassuring, especially for children conceived by IVF” and is an important contribution to the current knowledge about health risks in ART-offspring”.

She said they may assist physicians to inform parents considering ART about the potential health risks for their children.

This report is based on the offspring of women treated in the 13 IVF clinics or two regional fertility centres in the Netherlands.

Data came from the OMEGA cohort, a Netherlands-based cohort study of all live-born offspring from subfertile women treated with and without ART between 1980 and 2012. A total of 89,249 children were included – 51,417 born through ART such as IVF, ICSI, and frozen embryo transfer (FET) between 1983 and 2012, and 37,832 conceived naturally by subfertile women with/without fertility drugs between 1975 and 2012.

Details on the ART treatment and maternal characteristics were obtained from medical records, the Dutch Perinatal Registry, and questionnaires completed by the mothers. This information – IVF versus ICSI, fresh versus frozen embryo transfer, and cause of subfertility – was compared with cancer incidence ascertained from the Netherlands Cancer Registry.

The analysis showed that 358 cancers were diagnosed in children, of which 157 were in the ART group and 201 in the non-ART group. There was no overall increase in cancer risk for those born after ART compared with those not conceived by ART and the general population.

The chance of developing cancer was not significantly increased for children conceived by IVF compared with non-ART children. ICSI children were more likely to get cancer, but the authors say this was mainly driven by an increased likelihood of melanoma (based on four cases) and maybe down to chance.

Children born after FET were not at increased risk compared to those born after a fresh embryo transfer, neither were those aged 18 and above who were conceived by ART compared with non-ART.

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