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Large Study Shows No Increase in Overall Cancer Risk in Children Born After Assisted Reproductive Technology

Summary and Comment |
November 6, 2013

Large Study Shows No Increase in Overall Cancer Risk in Children Born After Assisted Reproductive Technology

  1. Robert W. Rebar, MD

Risk for certain rare neoplasms may be modestly increased, but this must be confirmed in future studies.

  1. Robert W. Rebar, MD

Children born after assisted reproductive technology (ART) are at slightly increased risk for prematurity, low birth weight, and congenital malformations, but information about long-term risks for rare but serious diseases is sparse. In a population-based study, investigators linked data on all children born after ART in Britain from 1992 through 2008 with national registry data on childhood tumors to determine incidence of cancer before age 15 in these children compared with those in the general population during the same period.

The cohort consisted of 106,000 children born after nondonor ART (mean follow-up, 6.6 years). A total of 108 cancers were identified in this group compared with 109.7 expected cancers (standardized incidence ratio [SIR], 0.98; 95% confidence interval, 0.81–1.19). Risks for leukemia, neuroblastoma, retinoblastoma, central nervous system tumors, renal tumors, and germ cell tumors were not increased. Excess risks for hepatoblastoma (SIR, 3.64; 95% CI, 1.34–7.93) and rhabdomyosarcoma (SIR, 2.62; 95% CI 1.26–4.82) were observed, and were not associated with imprinting disorders. Hepatoblastoma was associated with low birth weight.

Comment

Because hepatoblastoma developed after assisted reproductive technology in only 6 children and rhabdomyosarcoma in only 10, these cases might represent statistical aberrations. Data from this large series indicate that risk for childhood malignancy is not appreciably increased in children born after ART, consistent with data from prior small studies suggesting the possibility of a very small increased risk. Information such as this can be used to counsel couples seeking ART. Long-term follow-up is necessary to determine if lifetime risks for malignancy are increased.

  • Disclosures for Robert W. Rebar, MD at time of publication Grant / research support CDC Editorial boards Contraception Leadership positions in professional societies American Society for Reproductive Medicine (Executive Director)

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