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Ovarian tumours linked to IVF

27th October 2011

A UK cancer charity has sounded a note of caution over findings of a preliminary study that IVF has been linked to an increased risk of ovarian tumours in later life.

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Dutch researchers suggested that women given fertility drugs to produce eggs had more than triple the risk of an ovarian tumour that may turn cancerous, although they acknowledged the risks were low.

But Cancer Research UK stressed the numbers involved in the study, published in the journal Human Reproduction, were too small to draw firm conclusions.

The charity’s senior health information officer Dr Claire Knight said: “This interesting study suggests a possible link between ovarian stimulation for IVF and borderline ovarian tumours, but it certainly doesn't show that IVF causes invasive ovarian cancer.

“There were only a relatively small number of cases in this study, and the researchers didn't find that risk increased with the number of cycles a woman had, making conclusions hard to reach.

“Women can reduce their risk of ovarian cancer by being a non-smoker and keeping a healthy weight, and women who have taken the pill or been pregnant are also at lower risk.”

The Dutch team followed more than 25,000 women attending IVF clinics in The Netherlands in the 80s and 90s and follow-up investigations revealed more cases than expected of ovarian tumours in the women.

However, Professor Hani Gabra of the Ovarian Cancer Action Research Centre at Imperial College London said this latest study – in line with previous similar research - found the risks of invasive ovarian cancer are small.

 

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