Fertility drugs do not raise ovarian cancer risk say Danish researchers

In collaboration with the Press Association

Danish scientists have found no evidence to suggest that fertility drugs increase a woman's risk of ovarian cancer.

Previous studies have produced conflicting results, leaving a question mark over whether or not women who use fertility drugs face an elevated risk of the disease.

However, a large study by scientists at the Danish Cancer Society, published in the British Medical Journal, has found no such link.

- Liz Baker, senior science information officer, Cancer Research UK

Researchers looked at data on 54,362 women, all of whom had undergone infertility treatment in Denmark between 1963 and 1998.

The researchers compared ovarian cancer rates with the use of four different groups of fertility drugs for an average of 16 years.

They found that there was no overall increased risk for ovarian cancer after using fertility drugs.

There was a slight increase in the rate of a common type of ovarian cancer among women who had used a drug called clomiphene, but the result was not statistically significant and could have been down to chance.

They also found that women who had undergone ten or more cycles of infertility treatment or who did not achieve a pregnancy at all did not face an elevated risk of ovarian cancer as a result of taking fertility drugs.

The researchers concluded: "The results of our large nationwide study, which represents the largest number of cases of ovarian cancer in any cohort of women with infertility problems to date, generally concur with those of most previous epidemiological studies and provide reassuring evidence for the absence of a strong association between use of fertility drugs and risk of ovarian cancer."

However, they noted that many of the women involved in the study had not yet reached the age at which ovarian cancer typically develops and said that they will continue to monitor them to provide a more conclusive answer.

They also added that women should balance the possibility of a small increase in ovarian cancer risk "against the physical and psychological benefits of a pregnancy made possible only by the use of these drugs".

Liz Baker, Cancer Research UK's senior science information officer, commented: "This is good news for women having fertility treatment. This large study reinforces previous research that found no significant link between fertility drugs and ovarian cancer."

She added: "It's important to remember that increasing age is the biggest influence on the risk of this disease."

References

A. Jensen, H. Sharif, K. Frederiksen, S. K. Kjaer (2009). Use of fertility drugs and risk of ovarian cancer: Danish population based cohort study BMJ, 338 (feb05 2) DOI: 10.1136/bmj.b249