July 20th, 2010
10:59 AM ET

IVF babies at slightly higher risk for cancers

A study that followed nearly 27,000 children for 23 years,  1982-2005, and found that babies conceived through in vitro fertilization were at slightly higher risk for developing childhood cancers than those who were not conceived through IVF.

The risk was very low in both groups, based on data taken from the Swedish Cancer Register. The research was published in the journal Pediatrics this week.

Of the 26,692 children, Dr. Bengt Kallen and his fellow researchers found that 53 born through IVF had developed cancer compared with the expected number of 38 based on the rate among non-IVF children. The children in the study developed childhood cancers such as leukemia and brain tumors.

The authors say the cause is not likely IVF; instead it could be other factors for neonatal complications that result in “not quite normal development,” said Kallen. Previous research has indicated that IVF babies can face health complications such as premature birth, low birth weight or respiratory issues.

IVF increases risk of stillbirth – or does it?

“We know from other studies, these factors in themselves increase risk for cancer,” said Kallen, a professor at University of Lund in Sweden. “Therefore, it’s the intermediary between IVF and cancer.”

He gave these rough estimates: About 3 in 1,000 children born through IVF developed cancer, compared with about 2 in 1,000 children not conceived through the procedure.

“It’s a low risk,” said Kallen. “It shouldn’t affect decision to have IFV. Roughly speaking, the individual risk for a baby is extremely small.”

soundoff (50 Responses)
  1. The Problem with Statistics

    This article, at least as published here on cnn.com, I think highlights a very glaring problem with statistics: they may show CORRELATIONS, but the don't necessarily show CAUSAL relationships. The article says, "The authors say the cause is not likely IVF" ... so the question should be, "what is the cause?" I think a regression analysis of the surveyed groups is in top order. Questions to look at should be along the lines of, "Why did the birth mothers have IVF? Were they unable to conceive in the traditional way? If so, why? Is the man in their life infertile? Is she in a lesbian relationship where there is no man to donate? Does she have some disorder that predisposes her to an inability to conceive but can carry to term, which might lead to a higher cancer risk?" I think answers to these and similar questions would be far more useful than saying "IVF babies at slightly higher risk for cancers."

    July 20, 2010 at 12:07 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Pirogi

      Are you saying that lesbians are more likely to have children with childhood cancer? Otherwise, what would a person's sexual orientation have to do with it?

      July 20, 2010 at 13:09 | Report abuse |
    • KDW

      They said in the article that children born through IVF were more likely to be premature, low birth weight, and have respiratory problems. They then go on to say that previous research has shown a link with these conditions and increased cancer risk. You should perhaps work on your reading comprehension. Also one of the current theories of cancer (can't remember where I read this) is abnormal methylation on the DNA. People who have undergone more stressors tend to show more methylation.

      July 20, 2010 at 14:15 | Report abuse |
    • Jmack

      So you propose regression to combat correlation? Think about that for a second or two...

      July 20, 2010 at 14:26 | Report abuse |
    • Mya

      PLEASE READ…. Man with 4 young babies fights for his life. See more at SaveStan. ORG

      July 20, 2010 at 23:24 | Report abuse |
    • misbel

      If a higher percentage of IVF babies are premature and go to the NICU, then the answer may be the larger number of xrays and flouroscopy studies they get, which have radiation.

      July 21, 2010 at 09:56 | Report abuse |
    • gradstudnt

      Exceptional and perfect response.

      July 21, 2010 at 16:07 | Report abuse |
  2. The Problem with Statistics

    Absolutely not. What I was saying is that a lesbian likely does not have a male lover. Statistically speaking, of course.

    July 20, 2010 at 13:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. daveyboy

    and ivf increases likelihood of twins or triplets born to women in their 40's who end up having multiple health issues from being premature. i wish women would have children when they are suppose instead of acting like 25 is still a kid.

    July 20, 2010 at 14:08 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Steve

      IVF in general increases the odds of multiples because they usually transfer more than 1 embryo back to the uterus. This increses the odds of success given the overall cost of IVF. Plus odds of successful pregancy is poor to fair (IVF or not). I don't think age has much to do with it.

      July 20, 2010 at 15:52 | Report abuse |
  4. Debbie

    They said the cause is more likely the genetics of the parents having something to do with infertility and predisposition to cancers. I seem to recall a similar study finding higher rates of autism in IVF kids. Perhaps we should face the fact that not everyone should have kids.

    July 20, 2010 at 14:23 | Report abuse | Reply
    • garrak

      Do you have children? Who are you to decide who should and shouldn't have children? It's not always " infertility " that is the reason people can't conceive. IVF helps so many.

      July 20, 2010 at 14:54 | Report abuse |
    • Peoplewhoshouldnotbreed

      Garrack, you are an imbocile. She is saying that if you have potential for great health problems, you should not breed. It is utterly selfish and hateful to do so. Get a clue.

      July 20, 2010 at 15:27 | Report abuse |
    • Steve

      Peoplewhoshouldnotbreed: So then those 200,000 women diagnosed with breast cancer annually shouldn't have kids. Or, at least not little girls because breast cancer is hereditary. 22,000 other women who are diagnosed with ovarian cancer ought not have kids either – it's heriditary (strong links). Don't get me wrong it there was an overwhelming likelyhood of a child being ill I agree for the sake of that child don't be selfish. Butm there are so few illnesses that should prohibit someone from having a child.

      July 20, 2010 at 15:41 | Report abuse |
    • garrak

      Peoplewhoshoulnotbreed should learn how to spell before calling someone else an imbecile!

      Guess people who are genetically predisposed to Alzheimer, ALS, cystic fibrosis, MS, and so forth should not have children either...it's not possible that a treatment or a cure could be developed, right?

      July 20, 2010 at 16:12 | Report abuse |
  5. Lola

    IVF is a forceful pregnancy when your body is screaming "NO". Usually there are health problems behind an inability to conceive, and obviously they may cause numerous complications in both mother and child. Sad, but people are still desperate to have children....

    July 20, 2010 at 14:28 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Jackie

      Well apparently I'm one of those "desperate" ones Lola, but I'd rather be desperate than clueless. You obviously have NO idea what IVF entails or why one chooses IVF. I am perfectly healthy, except for tubal blockage and mildly aging ovaries. Give me a break folks, as a 36yr old female in a long-term stable relationship, I have a lot more to offer a child than I did at 25 when I was struggling to make ends meet in grad school. Our first round of IVF was unsuccessful. Lola, I hope no one close to you ever has to go through that heartbreak with you as their friend.

      July 20, 2010 at 16:33 | Report abuse |
    • Erika

      Contrary to popular belief, the majority of people that go though IVF are NOT older, menopausal women. There are many, many reasons why young women and men have to get help conceiving. Some women are not ovulating regularly, some may have lost a tube to a previous ectopic pregnancy, some have poor quality eggs, and men may have various issues with their sperm count. A large portion is simply unexplained. My husband had a low sperm count due to something as trivial as a varicocele, which is not all that uncommon, but has a long treatment time. I don't agree with you that his body was screaming NO. We could statistically get pregnant, but our chances were low. We have two wonderful healthy children now, thanks to IVF. This technique has helped SO many people. I cannot imagine life without my kids and I am forever thankful.

      July 20, 2010 at 16:43 | Report abuse |
    • Sheona

      Yes, I totally agreed with you, until it happened to me.

      July 20, 2010 at 17:08 | Report abuse |
    • KR

      @ Lola... REALLY, you think that all people who have babies through IVF are desperate and have something wrong with them?? Are you that naive? There are millions of factors that go into conceiving and carrying a child to term and just because someone might have a minor problem getting pregnant, does not mean that their body is screaming no and they were not destined to have children. Until it happens to you, you should not judge others. Without IVF, I would not have had my son. He is a miracle in many ways and he was meant to be here and have a productive happy life. I work with people who don't take care of their children and they let the system raise them. So what's more appropriate? An infertile couple trying to have a baby and getting extra medical help to do it or a person who keeps having children and then letting the foster care system raise them??

      August 6, 2010 at 14:01 | Report abuse |
    • Elis123

      So, I had my first two babies naturally at age 24 and 25. The third I conceived via IVF at age 28 due to scarring on my Fallopian tubes from the repair of a small hernia from my first pregnancies. Nothing else wrong with me at all. Should I be giving back the first two kids because I'm genetically inferior somehow? All successful reproduction means is that you have capable reproductive organs. Obviously says nothing about a strong mental ability...

      August 7, 2010 at 17:16 | Report abuse |
  6. garrak

    Unless you have ever been in a situation to have to make a decision regarding IVF you really shouldn't judge.

    July 20, 2010 at 14:58 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Steve


      July 20, 2010 at 15:53 | Report abuse |
  7. Steve

    My son was conceived through IVF (I thank GOD for him every single minute of the day). We are expecting another too later this year – again through IVF. Who the hell is anyone to tell people when they should or shouldn't have kids? Neither my wife nor I had fertility issues (except for tubal ligation which couldn't be reversed). THANK GOD for IVF. "IVF is a forceful pregnancy when your body is screaming no". NAIVE much? IVF increases likleyhood of multiples because often more than 1 is returned to the uterus... partly because the money people pay plus and the odds of an unsuccessful implantation. Has nothing to do with age.

    July 20, 2010 at 15:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Steve

    People need to inform themselves before making naive comments. There are many reasons why people have a hard time reproducing. Endometriosis, PCOS tubal blockages (from injury or ectopic pregnancy) – these are randon occurance in life.. not unhealthy habbits.... there are also lots of innocent reasons men have issues too.

    July 20, 2010 at 15:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. J

    My daughter was conceived through IVF. Her mother and I waited til our late 30's to have kids when it became financially reasonable, and we owned a house and mother could semi retire. If not for IVF my daughter wouldn't exist, my wife never produced enough eggs (3-5) at any given time even with the help of fertity drugs. We had 4 IVF's before finally having a daughter, the last time we had 2 eggs used (one made it to 8 cells, other 7) but we took the risk and had thankfully had our daughter. So many people post on this touchy subject and they don't understand. Responsible people should breed when they have the means mentally, emotionally, physically, and financially to care for their child. Parents who plan, wait, and comprehend the hardships of having a child , I think, are more likely to be successful parents. Of course, what do I know, I just have a wonderful 2 year old daughter that loves seahorses and balloons.

    July 20, 2010 at 15:54 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Steve

      Congrats. We are on number two through IVF. I'm in my late 30's too... we waited for the same reasons. When I was 20-25 I couldn't offer my kids what I can today (NOT only financial security). BY FAR THE BEST THING IN THE WORLD IS BEING A DADDY.

      July 20, 2010 at 15:58 | Report abuse |
    • J

      Hi Steve,

      One thing I can advise you is, we tried 4 times at Stanford here in California, after we exhausted all their efforts, we tried a company in Colorado. The place in CO had the highest success rate in the country (I believe Sweden was the next highest), and cost roughly 16k. If you and your wife have issues with the 2nd try, I strongly advise the CO option.

      July 20, 2010 at 16:02 | Report abuse |
    • Steve

      I am overjoyed to say we are expecting IVF baby #2 in December. Cost was roughyl the same.. we were lucky to have limited insured coverage but cost was roughly the same. Money means nothing when you have a bundle of joy smiling back at you every morning. Everyone I know going through IVF would sell the house, the car etc just for a child.

      July 20, 2010 at 16:06 | Report abuse |
  10. garrak

    Being predisposed does not mean that you or your child will get whatever disease that you have been predisposed to. I find it funny that those who don't have fertility issues are quick to say that those who do shouldn't have children. I don't see all of you getting genetically tested before trying to conceive!

    July 20, 2010 at 16:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. RLivingston

    Saying people shouldn't take advantage of IVF because some people just shouldn't have kids, is like saying people with Cancer (or any disease) shouldn't get treated. Men and women of ALL ages take part in IVF and it is a medical treatment for a medical problem. When it comes to fertility, for some reason people seem to think that they have the right to decide whether a person should be able to get medical treatment, but plenty of children are born with disabilities and diseases from parents who conceived naturally–so should they not have had kids?

    July 20, 2010 at 17:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. JWK

    RLivingston ..well argued ! I have had two miscarriages and one healthy daughter . tests showed that my eggs are of poor quality and my husband has low sperm count . We are getting treatment for this . My doctor says we may Have to go the IVF way and gladly i will as my husband and I want more children .

    July 21, 2010 at 02:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. MJB

    I wish people would consider all the orphaned children in the world and adopt one of them instead of doing IVF. I am all for having a choice to have your own child but Ive seen some of these abandoned children and it breaks my heart. Maybe one IVF child and one adopted child?? It would reduce the amount of sad, dying children in the world.

    July 21, 2010 at 10:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. MJB

    I wish people would consider all the orphaned children in the world and adopt one of them instead of doing IVF. I mean, I'm all for having a child of your own but it doesnt seem like people even think about those poor children who are already alive who need some parents. Maybe one IVF child and one adopted child?? Seems like they are both expensive but if you're going to pay for IVF you can also pay for adoption. Ive seem some of these abandoned children and it really breaks my heart. The global poplulation is already at 7 billion and the world is having a hard time dealing with that as it is. Adopting a child would fill the need of parenthood but at the same time practically keep the population from expanding at an irresponsible rate. Anyone?

    July 21, 2010 at 10:06 | Report abuse | Reply
    • L

      Everyone has the choice to adopt, not just those who need IVF. Why are the orphaned children of the world always forced on the infertile, but not the "fertile." Lets stop with the double standard, please.

      July 21, 2010 at 17:52 | Report abuse |
  15. MJB

    oops sorry everyone it said "error" the first time I tried to post.

    July 21, 2010 at 10:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Steve

    MJB: 15K to have my own or 30K to have someone else's. There's also the emotional reward of having your own. I wish every child could have a loving home. As long as IVF was an option we never contemplated adoption. My sister is in the process of adoption.... she's been caught up in the process long enough for my wife and I to be on number 2 through IVF.

    July 21, 2010 at 14:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. MJB

    L: My husband and I are both fertile and have no problems but we are still going to adopt so I have no double standard.
    I understand adoption is difficult and expensive but when I see these children that have nothing...money doenst seem to matter, but hey thats just me.

    July 22, 2010 at 09:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Wendy

    There was a Dutch study years ago that linked IVF babies to a higher incidence of retinoblastoma (5x), another childhood cancer. I have a relative that conceived thru IVF and has a child with retinoblastoma.

    August 6, 2010 at 17:46 | Report abuse | Reply
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