Study suggests potential link between IVF and childhood leukemia

A recent French study suggests that children born via in-vitro fertilization (IVF)  may be at a higher risk for childhood leukemia. 

Study authors Paula Rios, Philippe Herlemont, and Patricia Fauque published their findings in JAMA Network Open. While they say that embryo transfer of fresh or frozen embryos does not increase the overall risk of cancer, the risk of acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) was 61%  higher among children born after frozen embryo transfer, while those born using fresh embryos had a 42% increased risk.

“This risk, although resulting in a limited number of cases, needs to be monitored in view of the continuous increase in the use of ART [assisted reproductive technologies],” the study authors wrote.

The researchers analyzed more than 8.2 million births recorded in the French National Mother-Child Register between Jan 1 2010, and Dec 31 2021, following up with those births for an average of six years.

Some researchers warned that though there is a correlation, other factors like maternal age could be at play in the reasoning for the increased leukemia risk.

READ: Creating babies to kill: The union of IVF and ‘selective reduction’

“Importantly this study can’t prove a direct cause between mechanically assisted conception and blood cancer risk,” said Dr Richard Francis, deputy director of research at Blood Cancer UK. “It’s important to remember that the risk for children developing leukemia remains low.”

However, the study findings are just the latest in a string of reports showing the potential risks of IVF. There are a host of other known risks for children born via IVF, including low birth weighthigher blood pressurehormonal imbalances and advanced bone age, cardiovascular issues and cerebral palsy, autism spectrum disorder, and infertility.

In commenting on the study, Marie Hargreave, PhD, of the Danish Cancer Institute in Copenhagen, noted that “use of ART has been linked with several detrimental perinatal outcomes among children, including preterm birth and congenital malformations; disturbingly, several high-quality studies and systematic reviews have reported increased cancer risk among children born after fertility treatment.”

She went on to say that researchers “rightly raised the concern that it is unknown whether the increased leukemia risk observed in their study may, in fact, be attributable to factors related to the underlying infertility rather than the fertility treatment. Nevertheless, other high-quality studies with information on maternal infertility have reported increased cancer risk among children born after ART, even when using a reference group of children born to mothers with fertility problems who did not use ART.”

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