Can Fertility Drugs Cause Ovarian Cancer?
The use of fertility treatments have been rapidly increasing as more and more women are putting off their first pregnancy as late as possible while assisted reproduction technology provides more and more possibilities that go beyond the norms, e.g. motherhood beyond the menopausal stage.
However, one of the major concerns of fertility treatments is the possible adverse affects on a woman’s health. Fertility drugs are used to stimulate a woman’s ovary to produce multiple egg cells in one go. There have been controversial studies that raised the question whether this stimulation can lead to ovarian cancer.
However, this study by researchers at the Danish Cancer Society gives the reassurance that the link between fertility drugs and ovarian cancer is mainly due to chance. Their results are based on data from 54,362 women handled in Danish fertility clinics from 1963 and 1998. Upon follow up, only a very small number – 156 – of these women developed ovarian cancer. This results held through even in women who underwent several (10 or more!) cycles of fertility treatments. It also didn’t make a difference whether the fertility treatments resulted in pregnancy or not. There is a slight elevation with one drug called clomiphene but this, too, is too low to be conclusive. The authors are convinced this, too, is purely by chance.
A caveat however, is the fact that it takes years, even decades for cancer to appear. Many of the study participants still haven’t reached the peak age for ovarian cancer. The monitoring will continue.
However, the results of the study are good news for women who are undergoing or are planning to undergo fertility treatments.