Children conceived using In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) and similar techniques have no increased overall risk of cancer in childhood, according to a study published in The New England Journal of Medicine.
The study looked at data from around 106,000 births from IVF and other assisted conceptions in Britain over an 18 year period (1992-2008), and matched this data to information on cancer diagnoses as they grew up – until they were 15.
Overall cancer rates were strikingly similar in IVF babies and all other children – 108 cancers were diagnosed compared to an expected 110.
The researchers found that IVF was not linked to any increased risk of the commonest childhood cancers such as leukaemia, neuroblastoma, retinoblastoma, central nervous system tumours, or renal or germ cell tumours.
The researchers found a slight increase in the risk of two rarer types of childhood tumours – hepatic tumours and bone tumours – mainly a type called rhabdomysarcoma. There were only a small number of these cases. The authors were unable to confirm whether this increased risk was due to chance, being conceived through IVF or other factors such as low birth weight or parental infertility.
Dr Alastair Sutcliffe, study author at University College London Hospital and honorary consultant paediatrician at Great Ormond Street Hospital, said: “Our findings suggest that children conceived with IVF techniques have no greater risk of childhood cancer overall than naturally conceived children.
“These results are reassuring for parents who’ve had children in this way or are thinking about using it to conceive. Up until now it’s been difficult to study the link between using IVF techniques and childhood cancer – which is thankfully a relatively rare event. Our study is the largest of its kind to date to look at this link and bigger than all previous studies combined. We will be revisiting the data set in five years time to see if this good news can be further verified as the child population gets older.”