Drugs that stimulate egg production in women's ovaries, an integral part of the in-vitro fertilization (IVF) process, double the chances of women developing either cancerous or "borderline" ovarian tumors, a Dutch study has found. The cancer rates remain relatively low, but the findings have researchers urging further study of potential risk.
Reuters reports that the study examined 25,000 women over 15 years and found that IVF patients were twice as likely to develop ovarian malignancies as women who struggled with fertility but did not undergo IVF.
The risk was greater with borderline tumors, which contain abnormal cells but are not yet cancerous. Often, surgery to remove borderline tumors results in the removal of the entire ovary.
Experts emphasize that "risk" is not the same as "likelihood." Of the 19,000 IVF patients who were studied, only 61 ovarian malignancies were detected, which is a low percentage of the full group.
"The results should be kept in proportion as the increase shown was from around five in a thousand to seven per thousand women," Peter Braude of Kings College London, who was not involved in the study, told Reuters.
Fertility treatments and cancer were already in the news after Giuliana Rancic revealed that she discovered she has breast cancer after her fertility doctor insisted on a mammogram. A Cleveland Clinic doctor told Parents.com, "IVF drugs do not cause cancer," though women with risk factors should discuss their overall health picture with their doctors.
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