IVF doesn’t up long-term breast cancer risk, study says

IVF treatments may not be linked to an uptick in breast cancer risk down the line, researchers suggest. 

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For women thinking about fertility treatments, there may be one less thing to worry about.

A long-term study shows that women who underwent in vitro fertilization are not significantly more likely to develop breast cancer than women in the general public or women who opted for other fertility treatments. The results are reported July 19 in JAMA.

The fertility treatment alters progesterone and estradiol levels in women trying to get pregnant. Yo-yoing hormones have been linked to an increase in a woman’s odds of developing breast cancer, but studies are divided on whether IVF itself actually ups cancer risk.

Alexandra van den Belt-Dusebout of the Netherlands Cancer Institute in Amsterdam and her colleagues tracked 19,158 women who underwent in vitro fertilization treatment between 1983 and 1995 and 5,950 women who underwent other fertility treatments between 1980 and 1995.

Following up two decades later, the team found that 948 of the women had developed breast cancer. But breast cancer rates didn’t differ much between groups: 163.5 per 100,000 women for those who had IVF compared to 167.2 women on other fertility treatments and 163.3 women in the general public.

Helen Thompson is the multimedia editor. She has undergraduate degrees in biology and English from Trinity University and a master’s degree in science writing from Johns Hopkins University.

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