The truth about IVF and ovarian cancer

Is there actually a link between IVF and ovarian cancer, or is it all scaremongering?

IVF

The papers are claiming women who undergo IVF are a third more likely to develop ovarian cancer – but is it true, or is it all scaremongering?

The study concerned looked at every IVF procedure recorded by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority between 1991 and 2010. It took into account more than 250,000 women – making it the biggest study of fertility treatment in the world - and found women who have gone through IVF were 37 per cent more likely to develop ovarian cancer. But that isn't the whole story.

Scientists at University College London have said underlying health problems in women struggling with their fertility could be a factor – fertility problems can be for all sorts of reasons and health issues, and the study only looked at the statistical evidence, rather than the reasons behind it.

Some experts believe the increase is because women who are infertile are more at risk anyway, as birth control pills and carrying a pregnancy to term increase your protection against the disease.

The risk increase itself is small – only 15 in every 10,000 women studied developed ovarian cancer during the study period, compared to 11 women in every 10,000 of the average population. And there was no increased risk of breast or womb cancer, nor did the danger increase with a greater number of IVF cycles.

But the findings showed the risk was highest in the first three years after receiving fertility treatment and in younger women, supporting the theory that the treatment itself could be linked to the disease.

Whatever the cause, the new findings are have triggered British health experts to call for women undergoing IVF to be screened at regular intervals for ovarian cancer.

An estimated one in every seven heterosexual couples in Britain will be affected by fertility problems, and around 50,000 women in the UK undergo fertility treatments every year.

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