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Int J Cancer. 2013 Sep 1;133(5):1180-6. doi: 10.1002/ijc.28110. Epub 2013 Mar 25.

Increased risk for cancer among offspring of women with fertility problems.

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Unit of Virus, Lifestyle and Genes, Danish Cancer Society Research Center, Copenhagen, Denmark.


Some studies have indicated that children born after fertility treatment have a potential risk for cancer, but the results are inconsistent. Furthermore, any negative effects of fertility treatment might be due to the underlying infertility rather than to the procedure itself. In the largest cohort study to date with information on fertility, we examined whether the offspring of women with fertility problems had a higher risk for cancer than offspring of women without fertility problems. The study cohort consisted of 2,830,054 offspring born in Denmark between 1964 and 2006. Of these, 125,844 were offspring of women evaluated for infertility. Cox regression models were used to estimate the possible effect of being the offspring of a woman evaluated for infertility on the risk for cancer. Analyses were performed separately for cancer during childhood (0-19 years) and cancer in young adulthood (>20 years). We found that offspring born to women with fertility problems had higher overall risks for cancer in childhood (hazard ratio (HR), 1.18; 95% confidence interval (CI), 1.05-1.32) and in young adulthood (HR, 1.22; 95% CI, 1.04-1.43) than offspring of women without fertility problems. Offspring of women with fertility problems had significantly increased risks for leukemia in childhood (HR, 1.30; 95% CI, 1.06-1.60) and for cancer of the endocrine glands in young adulthood (HR, 2.67; 95% CI, 1.35-5.29). These findings suggest that offspring born to mothers with fertility problems are at increased risk for cancer in both childhood and young adulthood. If real, our findings of an ∼18% overall increase in risk for cancer in childhood and an ∼22% overall increase in risk for cancer in young adulthood would mean about four additional cases of childhood cancer and about nine additional cases of cancer in young adults per 100,000 exposed offspring.


childhood cancer; fertility treatment; infertility

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