The British Fertility Society welcomes the publication of a powerful new study showing that children born through in vitro fertilisation (IVF) techniques do not have an increased risk of developing early childhood cancers compared to children born naturally. This is the largest study to date of this kind and will help to reassure patients considering IVF treatment.

The study, which is published in the New England Journal of Medicine, followed 106,013 children born through IVF between 1992 and 2008. 108 IVF children developed cancer during this period, which was similar to the 110 cancers the researchers had expected based on average population risks.

The study used data on children born through IVF from the Human Fertilisation & Embryology Authority and linked it to the information held by the National Registry of Childhood Tumours. This means that the study looked at almost all UK children born through IVF who had developed early childhood cancers, rather than just a representative sample.

The study did show a small increase in two types of rare childhood cancers: hepatoblastomas and rhabdomysarcomas. However, as the incidence of these cancers was so small this increase could be due to a variety of other factors such as low birth weight, the parents’ underlying infertility or simply chance.

British Fertility Society Chairman Dr Allan Pacey said:

Couples undergoing IVF are understandably concerned about the heath of any children born following the procedure. They often ask about the risks, but to date the follow-up studies conducted have often been too small to be certain and are sometimes contradictory. This study has a convincing level of statistical power to reassure us that the risk of childhood cancer in children born following IVF is essentially no different from that seen in other children conceived naturally. This is excellent news and I hope that patients, professionals and those born through IVF find it reassuring. We need to make sure this information is publicised as widely as possible.

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Notes for editors:

The British Fertility Society is a national multidisciplinary organisation representing professionals practising in the field of reproductive medicine. For general information, please visit our website: http://www.fertility.org.uk

‘Cancer risk among children born after assisted conception’ by Sutcliffe et al. will be published in the New England Journal of Medicine on 6 November 2013 at 22:00 GMT.
The paper will be available at: www.nejm.org/media/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa1301675