- IVF babies are 65 per cent more likely to develop leukaemia
- They are nearly 90 per cent more likely to develop a form of brain cancer
Children born as a result of IVF are a third more likely to get cancer, a major study found.
Scientists said those born after fertility treatments were 33 per cent more likely to have childhood cancer.
They were 65 per cent more likely to develop leukaemia and 88 per cent more likely to develop cancers of the brain and central nervous system.
Children born as a result of IVF are more likely to develop childhood cancer
The study suggests fertility treatment may change the way certain genes function when they are passed from parent to child in a process known as ‘genomic imprinting’.
These faults in genes are linked to childhood cancers, the Danish researchers said.
They warned these changes could be triggered by aspects of fertility treatment such as exposure to hormones, semen preparation, freezing embryos, growth conditions of embryos or delayed insemination.
But they could not rule out the chance that the increased risk was the result of parents’ infertility, not the treatment.
Earlier this year, British research on more than 100,000 children born after fertility treatment found they had no increased risk of cancer.
In vitro fertilisation (IVF) is among the most widely used fertility techniques, with around 18,000 IVF babies born in Britain each year.
An egg is removed from the woman’s ovaries and fertilised with sperm, then returned to the womb to grow.
The research, in the journal Fertility and Sterility, reviewed 25 studies from 12 developed countries, including the US, the UK, Denmark, France and Israel, from 1990 to 2010.
THREE-PARENT CHILDREN ‘ILLEGAL’
Plans for Britain to become the first country to create babies using DNA from three parents were condemned by MPs last night.
The treatment can reduce the risk of children having potentially fatal illnesses.
Damaged DNA from a mother at risk of passing on a mitochondrial disease such as muscular dystrophy is substituted with some from a healthy female donor.
The technique was recommended to Government by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority this year after a consultation.
The eight MPs were among 34 members of the Council of Europe, the human rights group made up of European politicians, who called it ‘incompatible with human dignity and international law’.
‘The results of the largest meta-analysis on this topic to date indicate an association between fertility treatment and cancer in offspring,’ wrote author Dr Marie Hargreave, of the Danish Cancer Society research centre, Copenhagen.
‘The etiology [origin] of childhood cancer is still largely unknown, but it has been hypothesized that fertility treatment may play a role.’
One theory is that anti-oestrogen drugs that stimulate ovulation are similar to diethylstilbestrol, a drug once given to pregnant women to stop complications, but later linked to childhood cancer.
The researchers stressed that the risk of cancer among children born after fertility treatment remains low.
They wrote: ‘Infertile couples may already have an increased number of epigenetic defects . . . which come to light through the treatment process.’
Most children in the studies were born after IVF but some couples used other techniques such as intra-cytoplasmic sperm injection or intrauterine insemination.
Dr Allan Pacey, the chairman of the British Fertility Society, said: ‘Although this paper reports an apparent increase in the incidence in childhood cancer, the association is small and it is still not possible to say whether it is a consequence of IVF or the underlying infertility of the parents.’
Cancer is the second biggest cause of death of children in developed countries. Around 1,600 children are diagnosed each year in Britain.
A spokesman for the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority said: ‘A recent UK study found there to be no increased risk of cancer to children as a result of assisted reproduction treatment.’
Geeta Nargund is medical director at Create Health Clinics, which promotes ‘mild IVF’, with fewer fertility jabs and lower dosages. She said: ‘This is an interesting study which raises concerns about potential long-term effects of fertility treatment on children.’