For years, infertility specialists have insisted in scientific and public arenas that a key IVF procedure known as ovarian stimulation—chemically goosing women’s ovaries to ripen multiple eggs in a single menstrual cycle—poses little or no long-term cancer risk for those undergoing it.
Like so many other safety claims advanced by researchers and clinicians since the early days of reproductive medicine, this assertion has been made on the basis of virtually no solid evidence, and those who have accepted it can only have done so on the basis of faith: Over the last two decades, the two dozen or so scientific follow-up studies of women who have undergone ovarian stimulation have yielded conflicting results and have been largely unconvincing because they have looked at relatively small numbers of women, have collected a limited range of medical information, and have not tracked their subjects over a long period of time.
That said, a dozen or so previous studies pointed to an increased risk for both ovarian cancer and borderline ovarian tumors, malignancies that are usually self-contained and operable and have higher survival rates than full-blown ovarian cancers.
Now an impressively large and comprehensive study out of the Netherlands has confirmed the disquieting findings of those studies while affording a much sharper picture of the risks posed by exposure to fertility drugs like clomiphene citrate, synthetic gonadotropin releasing hormone analogs, and other stand-ins for the naturally circulating hormones that, in fertile women, cause eggs to ripen and be released. The article, published in the online version of Human Reproduction on October 26, concludes that among the population of women in the study, exposure to fertility drugs significantly heightened the chances of borderline and invasive ovarian malignancies.
Posted in Assisted Reproduction, Egg Retrieval, Reproductive Justice, Health & Rights
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