January 2003

The British Fertility Society1 (BFS) understands the concerns of patients regarding a recent report2 from the Netherlands that has linked assisted conception treatment to an increased risk of developing the very rare cancer, retinoblastoma. The BFS is committed to carefully monitoring the consequences of treatments that we provide and will continue to review such reports carefully.

The report acknowledges that these are isolated cases and that there is no confirmed evidence linking IVF treatment and retinoblastoma, a rare condition that affects 1 in 17000 children. The chance of any child – whether conceived naturally or through IVF – developing cancer before the age of 15 years is 1 in 600. 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 a safe treatment for couples that are unable to have a family and will continue to work with researchers to ensure that we achieve this aim. Dr Alison Murdoch, chair of the BFS, comments: ‘The number of children born after IVF will continue to increase as the treatment and its availability improves. Sadly, it is inevitable that some of these children will develop the same problems suffered by other children who were conceived naturally. Whilst it is vital that we are aware of the potential risks of IVF, patients who have children as a result of IVF can be reassured that this report is an isolated finding. Parents should remain confident that their children need no tests for this condition.’

1The British Fertility Society is a national multidisciplinary organisation representing professionals practising in the field of reproductive medicine.

2Report in the Lancet.