Children conceived by in-vitro fertilization at higher risk for pediatric cancers

But danger is still ‘very low,’ say Ben-Gurion University researchers.

Cribs for newborn babies are seen through an window at a nursery in a hospital in Jerusalem, September 10, 2015. (photo credit: REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun)
Cribs for newborn babies are seen through an window at a nursery in a hospital in Jerusalem, September 10, 2015.
(photo credit: REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun)
Children conceived by in-vitro fertilization are at a higher but still very small risk of developing cancers before the age of 18, according to research at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Beersheba.
“The risk is twice as high than children who are naturally conceived,” Prof. Eyal Shiner, vice dean of BGU’s Faculty of Health Sciences and a member of Soroka University Medical Center’s obstetrics/gynecology department told The Jerusalem Post. However, he added, “It is absolutely not a reason for panic or for childless couples to decide not to have an IVF baby.”
The researchers studied the records of 242,187 newborn infants, 237,863 (98.3 percent) of whom were conceived spontaneously; 2,603 (1.1 percent) were conceived after IVF and 1,721 (0.7 percent) were conceived after ovulation induction treatments.
After a decade follow-up period, 1,498 malignant tumors (0.6 percent) were diagnosed. The incidence rate for the cancers was highest among children either after IVF (1.5/1000) and somewhat lower for babies produced by induced ovulation (1.0/1000) as compared to that of naturally conceived children (.59/1000). Thus the risk is twice as high, but still very low, said Shiner.
The study was published in the prestigious American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology.
“We showed an association between the two factors, but not causation, that IVF causes cancer. The IVF population is an older group than the group that conceived naturally, so this may cause the higher risk of pediatric cancers; the hormones women take to produce ova may also be involved, but to know this, more research is needed,” the BGU gynecologist said. “There are many medical treatments that are carried out but are not risk free.”
According to the American Cancer Society, the most common pediatric neoplasms are leukemia, brain and spinal cord tumors, neuroblastomas, Wilms tumors and lymphoma, including both Hodgkins and non-Hodgkins.
“In Israel, all fertility interventions, which include in vitro fertilization (IVF) and ovulation induction (OI), are fully covered by insurance, enabling citizens of all backgrounds access to these treatments,” says Prof. Eyal Sheiner, vice dean of the BGU Faculty of Health Sciences, member of its Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, and a physician at Soroka.
“The research concludes that the association between IVF and total pediatric neoplasms and malignancies is significant, but still very small,” Sheiner said. “With increasing numbers of offspring conceived after fertility treatments, it is important to follow up on their health.”