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Semin Reprod Med. 2012 Apr;30(2):131-45. doi: 10.1055/s-0032-1307421. Epub 2012 Apr 27.

Fertility drugs and the risk of breast and gynecologic cancers.

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  • 1Hormonal and Reproductive Epidemiology Branch, National Cancer Institute, Rockville, MD 20852-7234, USA.


The evaluation of cancer risk among patients treated for infertility is complex, given the need to consider indications for use, treatment details, and the effects of other factors (including parity status) that independently affect cancer risk. Many studies have had methodologic limitations. Recent studies that have overcome some of these limitations have not confirmed a link between drug use and invasive ovarian cancers, although there is still a lingering question as to whether borderline tumors might be increased. It is unclear whether this merely reflects increased surveillance. Investigations regarding breast cancer risk have produced inconsistent results. In contrast, an increasing number of studies suggest that fertility drugs may have a special predisposition for the development of uterine cancers, of interest given that these tumors are recognized as particularly hormonally responsive. Additional studies are needed to clarify the effects on cancer risk of fertility drugs, especially those used in conjunction with in vitro fertilization. Because many women who have received such treatments are still relatively young, further monitoring should be pursued in large well-designed studies that enable assessment of effects within a variety of subgroups defined by both patient and disease characteristics.

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