Monday, July 9, 2012

Data Inconclusive: Young Women Who Undergo IVF May Develop Breast Cancer

IVF Injection

Few women in their 20's expect to have trouble conceiving when they're ready to have a baby.

According to women 20-24 have an 85% chance of getting pregnant and women 25-29 have a 78% chance of getting pregnant. Still, there are no guarantees and roughly 1 in every 5 women under 30 struggles with infertility.

Louise Stewart, a researcher at the University of Western Australia and lead author of a 16-year study on the link between IVF treatments and breast cancer, says the results are inconclusive. The study, which followed over 21,000 women between the ages of 20-40 found that only 2 percent of the women who had IVF with fertility drugs developed breast cancer vs. 1.7 percent of women who used fetility drugs alone.

Researchers felt this difference was statistically insignificant.

However, when the results were broken down by age, women who started IVF treatment at the age of 24 saw their risk jump to 56%. Interestingly, women who went through IVF at 40 or older showed no increased risk at all.

Breast cancer in many cases is linked to estrogen exposure and with IVF, there are short, but significant estrogen level spikes. Researchers think one possible reason is that younger women are exposing themselves to higher levels of circulating estrogen during their cycles of IVF.

Stewart additionally proposed that younger women who require IVF treatment may have underlying issues that differentiate them from women who undergo fertility treatments without IVF at the same age. Of course, this is all just a hypothesis and Stewart points out that the study did not include any information about the cause of the women's infertility.

Bottom line: no one knows.

The best course of action is to discuss options and risks with your own doctor. Seek out a specialist if you feel your Ob/Gyn isn't able to provide you with the answers you need.

You can read the complete article at the Chicago Tribune.

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