In Vitro Fertilization & Increased Risk of Ovarian Tumors

A Dutch study over 15 years has been conducted regarding women who sought in vitro fertilization in hopes of being able to bear a child.  This study found that in vitro fertilization treatment could double the risk of ovarian cancer.  The rates of the cancer were twice as high among those who had gone through IVF, which forces the ovaries to produce extra eggs than in those who had not.  The study also revealed that ovary stimulation quadrupled the risk of non-fatal, slow-growing “borderline ovarian tumors.”  Borderline ovarian tumors are not fatal and may never become dangerous, however, they usually do require surgery to remove.

The 15-year study looked at 19,146 women who received IVF in the Netherlands and compared them to 6,000 women who also had trouble conceiving, but did not receive treatment.  The overall rate of ovarian cancer (from women who received treatment) was twice as high.

Researchers say that physicians should explain to women the risks involved and that borderline tumors do not usually become ovarian cancer, but the risk is there.  They also point out, however, that ovarian cancer has a high fatality rate and recommended that larger studies be done.  It is recommended that all women who are considering the use of in vitro fertilization drugs be aware of the possible adverse effects and risks of taking these drugs.  It also makes sense to minimize exposure to these medications and not to take these medications longer than necessary in order to obtain benefits.  Usually it is recommended that patients not receive more than 4 to 6 cycles without follow-up with their physician.  Experts are unsure whether long-term follow-up should be recommended.  Routine yearly exams to check for ovarian abnormalities are suggested.

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