Ovarian Cancer & IVF Link: Should you be worried?

9th November 2015 in IVF

A recent study has caused concern about a possible increased risk of ovarian cancer in women undergoing IVF.

The study, by University College London, was widely reported last month, causing concern amongst women who were going through IVF or considering it in future: despite the fact that the researchers themselves said the increase was likely to be caused by the women’s underlying fertility issues and not the treatment itself.

In our first blog of this week, our Medical Director, Dr David Polson, explains why the results of this study are actually reassuring to patients:

The headlines reported when this study was published were certainly alarming. But whenever studies like this make the news, it’s always important to read through the headlines and look at the facts and the data – not just the headlines.

The study looked at the rates of ovarian, uterine and breast cancer, using data from HFEA over 20 years of patients who had had IVF. And whilst it showed no increased risk of uterine or breast cancer, there was a small increase in cases of ovarian cancer – 15 women in every 10,000 compared to 11 in every 10,000 across the general population.

This increased risk could be attributed to the lack of pregnancy in the affected women, something that is widely recognised as an increased risk factor for ovarian cancer.

But the data also showed that women with endometriosis are also at slightly higher risk of ovarian cancer. If these cases were taken out of the study, then there was no actual increased risk of ovarian cancer.

IVF itself was not the cause of these increases. The study showed that in IVF treatment where male factor infertility was the reason for treatment, there was no increased risk at all.

This shows that the increase is driven by the women’s infertility. It doesn’t show that the increase is caused by the drugs used for IVF, going through egg collection, or any of the procedures associated with treatment.

So actually, it’s very reassuring for people going through IVF treatment, not only about the safety of the drugs used but the long-term effects of IVF and the processes involved.

If you’re worried about the effects of IVF, you can talk to us at anytime. Our friendly Patient Advisors 0161 300 2737 are here to answer any questions you may have, or talk to your fertility consultant. As a team we are here to reassure you if you ever have any concerns about any part of your treatment, at any stage.

Last updated: 9th November 2015