Fertility Treatment is Does Not Put Women at Risk of Ovarian Cancer But it is Complicated

Women who have received fertility treatment are not at increased risk of ovarian cancer, according to a new study. 

A team of researchers from multiple institutes in the Netherlands investigated a group of around 40,000 women with fertility problems, of which around 30,000 had at least one IVF cycle between 1983-2000. They found no increased risk of ovarian cancer compared to those who had not. 

Even after three or more IVF treatments and in the long term (twenty years), the risk of ovarian cancer was not increased.

However, when women who had IVF treatment did get ovarian cancer, there is a higher risk that it will be invasive ovarian cancer compared with the general population. This is attributed to the high proportion of subfertile women who remain childless (whether or not they receive fertility treatment), claiming that childlessness is a known risk factor for ovarian cancer.

Supporting this, women who had more successful IVF cycles had a reduced risk of invasive ovarian cancer. 

A limitation of the study is that ovarian cancer is very rare in women under 50 years of age, with the overall number of cancers detected very small. The lead author, Professor Flora van Leeuwen from the Netherlands Cancer Institute, said 'It is important to realise that even with the long follow-up in our study, the median age of the women at end of follow-up was only 56 years. As the incidence of ovarian cancer in the population increases at older ages, it is important to follow assisted reproductive technology-treated women even longer.'

Taken from an article by Dr Molly Godfrey

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