Fertility Drugs Not Found to Increase Ovarian Cancer Risk

Fertility drugs that stimulate the functioning of a woman’s ovaries do not add to her chances of developing ovarian cancer later in life, a new study has found. Though previous studies had made similar conclusions, many of those were conducted outside of the United States, whereas the new study was conducted on U.S. women.  Reuters has more:

“One important message is women who need to use fertility drugs to get pregnant should not worry about using these fertility drugs,” said Dr. Albert Asante, lead author of the study and a clinical fellow in the division of reproductive endocrinology at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota….

….Infertility, defined as not getting pregnant after a year of trying, is experienced by about 15 percent of couples.

Asante’s team looked specifically at whether women in the study who reported being infertile- whether or not they had taken fertility drugs – had a greater chance of developing ovarian cancer, and found no added risk.

Asante said one explanation for the result is that most of the women in his study had infertility issues, but eventually became pregnant. He would still expect to see a higher risk of ovarian cancer if he had included more women who never ended up having a baby.

Asante left open the possibility that long term use of fertility drugs – more than one year – could impact the chance of developing ovarian cancer, and to be safe these women might benefit from additional monitoring for tumors.

He said that because ovarian cancer is rare and develops later in life, there is a need for longer studies to thoroughly assess the effect of fertility drugs.

According to the National Cancer Institute, close to 13 out of every 100,000 women develop ovarian cancer, most commonly in their 60s. Family history of the disease or certain gene mutations raise a woman’s risk considerably.

Image: Fertility injection, via Shutterstock

 

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