When an article about cancer risk among children born after assisted conception came out in this week’s New England Journal of Medicine, I definitely paid attention. So many of my patients have used IVF and indeed so have members of my family. Since the introduction of in vitro fertilization in 1978, 5 million children have been born world-wide withy his type of assisted conception. Research has shown that there can be some prenatal complications in children born through IVF, including low birth weight, prematurity and and rare forms of congenital malformations. There has been a concern that IVF can also increase risk of cancer because of a phenomenon called in printing disorders. (This becomes somewhat complicated but just remember that genes and chromosomes might potentially be impacted when they are manipulated and have to come together in an artificial environment.)
The recent article is based on research done in the United Kingdom. Basically the study linked data on all children born through IVF between 1992 and 2008 and data from the United Kingdom National Registry of Childhood Tumors in order to determine the number of children children in whom cancer developed before the age of 15. There were 106,013 children born after IVF. Altogether, they only found 108 cancers. The expected number based on all other non IVF children would have been 109.7. The cancers they looked at where leukemia, cancer of the nervous system, retinoblastoma (a rare cancer of the eye), kidney cancer and liver and muscle cancer.
Before I continue with the long words used to define the types of cancer they accounted for, let me reassure you (and myself) that they found no increase in the overall risk of cancer among British children born after IVF during that 17 year study period. They did find a very slight increase risk of cancer of the liver and muscle but felt that the absolute risk were small. In their discussion the authors stated that “this is reassuring for couples considering assisted conception, children conceived in this way and their families and clinicians”. Yes indeed. As we continue to enter the brave new world of treatment of infertility this is one less thing we should be concerned about.
Now that I have reviewed this article, I don’t want end this week’s website website without adding the following: We have all heard the reports and seen the pictures of the devastation caused by the typhoon in the Philippines. Currently, we know that 10 million people were affected including 3.9 million children. At last count, as many as 1 million people have been displaced and over 23,000 houses were damaged or destroyed. Save the Children’s team is in the Philippines and working on the ground in the hardest hit areas. The organization has doctors and logistic experts there and they have pulled supplies from their warehouses on three different continents and are sending planes filled with blankets, medical equipment, newborn kits, buckets, tents and more to the Philippines. They arrived Thursday in Cebu and the staff immediately began distributing supplies. As we sit safely in our homes, offices or wherever it is we access the Internet (and hopefully this website), we should remember how lucky we are. If you would like to know more and hopefully donate, you can find information about Save’s response (yes, I’m on the board) at www.savethechildren.org. Thank you!
Philippine Typhoon Haiyan Response: every small donation counts: Give online: www.savechildren.org