by Corey Whelan
The ASRM Office of Public Affairs has released information on a large, population-based study done in Australia, linking In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) to breast cancer in young women. The study, led by Louise M. Stewart, B.Sc., utilized data from over 21,000 women and indicated that breast cancer rates are contingent upon the age of the woman at time of treatment. A slight yet significant increase in breast cancer was shown in younger, but not in older, patients.
Participants in the study who were treated for infertility with non-IVF procedures or medications did not show higher diagnosis rates for breast cancer than non-infertile women of the same age. Those who first attempted IVF at 24 years old were one-and-a-half times more likely to develop the disease as compared to women of the same age undergoing infertility treatments other than IVF. Women attempting IVF at 40 years of age showed no increased risk.
According to ASRM President-elect, Linda Giudice, M.D., Ph.D., "The development of breast cancer is linked to estrogen exposure and the longer one is exposed, the greater the risk. In an IVF cycle, there is a short, but significant elevation in circulating estrogen, and whether this is linked to the observations found in this study is not clear at this time. Women should be reassured that, overall, IVF was not associated with an increased risk for development of breast cancer. However, as noted in the study, women in their thirties and forties need to be aware of the increased risk of breast cancer associated with delivering one's first child at this stage of reproductive life. For younger women, there is the possibility that IVF is associated with increased risk, but more research is needed to confirm this."