16 January 2003
The British Fertility Society1 (BFS) understands the concerns of patients regarding a recent UK study that has linked assisted conception treatment to an increased risk of the genetic imprinting disorder, Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome. The BFS has examined the data in relation to this genetic problem in detail and is committed to carefully monitoring the consequences of treatments that we provide.
Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome is a very rare condition. This form normally affects only 1 in 30,000 babies. The study suggests that after in vitro fertilisation treatment the chance of having a baby with this condition is increased slightly to 4 in 30,000. Most of these children are recognised as having problems at or soon after birth, and the specific type of cancer that sufferers develop (Wilms tumour) is unlikely to occur after the age of 4 years.
The chance of a child developing cancer before the age of 15 years is 1 in 600 and about 80% of these cases are curable. We do not have any evidence that the overall risk of cancer is increased after assisted conception treatment.
The BFS is committed to providing safe treatments for couples who are unable to have a family and will continue to work with researchers to ensure that we achieve this aim.
1The British Fertility Society is a national multidisciplinary organisation representing professionals practising in the field of reproductive medicine.