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Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2016 May;14(5):729-37.e5. doi: 10.1016/j.cgh.2015.12.018. Epub 2015 Dec 12.

Risk of Colorectal Cancer After Ovarian Stimulation for In Vitro Fertilization.

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Department of Epidemiology, The Netherlands Cancer Institute, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Erasmus Medical Center, Rotterdam, The Netherlands.
Department of Epidemiology, The Netherlands Cancer Institute, Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Electronic address:



Apart from lifestyle factors, sex hormones also seem to have a role in the etiology of colorectal cancer. This raises interest in the possible effects of fertility drugs, especially because the use of ovarian stimulation for in vitro fertilization (IVF) has strongly increased over the past decades.


In 1996, a nationwide cohort study was set up to examine cancer risk in a population that included 19,158 women who received ovarian stimulation for IVF (IVF group) and 5950 women who underwent subfertility treatments other than IVF (non-IVF group). Cancer incidence was ascertained through linkage with the Netherlands Cancer Registry. Colorectal cancer risk in the IVF group was compared with those in the general population and in the non-IVF group.


After a median follow-up of 21 years, 109 colorectal cancers were observed. Compared with the general population, risk of colorectal cancer was not increased in the IVF group (standardized incidence ratio, 1.00; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.80-1.23), and was significantly decreased in the non-IVF group (standardized incidence ratio, 0.58; 95% CI, 0.36-0.88). Women in the IVF group had a significant increase in risk compared with women in the non-IVF group (multivariable-adjusted hazard ratio, 1.80; 95% CI, 1.10-2.94). No trend emerged with more IVF cycles or more ampules of gonadotropins administered. Colorectal cancer risk did not increase with longer follow-up periods.


Although women who receive ovarian stimulation for IVF do not have an increased risk for colorectal cancer compared with the general population, findings from our nationwide cohort study indicate that their risk is increased compared with women who received subfertility treatments other than IVF. Further research is warranted to examine whether ovarian stimulation for IVF contributes to development of colorectal cancer.


CRC; Colon Cancer; Fertility Drugs; Parity; Subfertility

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