Could Breast Cancer be Linked to IVF?

Research from Australia suggests younger women having IVF fertility treatment do have a higher risk of breast cancer later in life.

Chris Woollams, former Oxford University Biochemist and a founder of CANCERactive, "It’s poor science, I know. But four women with breast cancer developed in their late 30’s contacted me in a two-week period. All had had IVF. The question the posed was, 'Did the oestroegen-enriching process they underwent lead to the breast cancer, or was it something else?'

The jury is out. We do well know that oestrogen can drive cancers. It can cause havoc in healthy human cells, it can hold stem cells in a rapidly dividing state and it is known to fuel the fire of cancer through increased cell division and metabolic change.

But whether the extra oestrogen in your body due to the fertility treatment and/or the IVF caused the breast cancer is hard to tell. The factors that prevented fertility in the first place may be the cause.

A new research study attempts to shed light on this issue. Researchers from the University of Western Australia, Crawley, led by Louise Stewart studied 21,000 women who went through fertility treatment in Western Australia Hospitals between 1983 and 2002 and did find a link. The research was published in the journal 'Fertility and Sterility'.

The research compared women who took just fertility drugs against those who had both fertility drugs and IVF. Overall, there was only a slight increase but it seems the issue may be age-dependent. Women who start IVF in their twenties have a 56 per cent greater chance of developing breast cancer than those who have it around the age of 40. And this may be due to the exposure to higher levels of oestrogen circulating in the blood of the younger women having IVF.

Of course, it still could be that the cause of the infertility in younger women leads to breast cancer, and the research did not look at cause. But worries have now increased that, especially for younger women, IVF may link to increased risk of breast cancer. Until this is proven not to be the case, Doctors should make the warning part of their speech to young women thinking of having the treatment. (Source Reuters).
There is research from Stamford University Medical School showing that women who have fertility treatment do have a higher risk of ovarian and Endometrial cancers later in life."
April - June Cancer Watch 2012
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