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Last month, we wrote a series of blogs on Giuliana Rancic and the relationship between infertility treatments and breast cancer. A recent study has also raised awareness on such medical advances and the relationship with ovarian cancer. Ovarian cancer occurs in almost 4% of female cancer cases and is the leading cause of death from gynecological cancers.

In an article in the journal Human Reproduction, researchers compared the medical histories of approximately nineteen thousand women who had undergone in vitro fertilization (IVF) to treat infertility and compared them with another six thousand who had experienced infertility and did not undergo IVF. In order for a woman to go through IVF, she first stimulates her ovaries with high levels of hormones to produce multiple eggs from the ovaries, which are then removed and fertilized in a laboratory. In the study, the women who underwent IVF were found to have twice the rates of boarderline ovarian tumors that may or may not require surgery to treat. There were no differences in the overall rates of more advanced, invasive cancer between the two groups of women.

Interestingly, in the study, “Risk of borderline and invasive ovarian tumours after ovarian stimulation for in vitro fertilization in a large Dutch cohort,” the dose of hormonal stimulation or number of egg retrieval cycles did not seem to impact ovarian tumor risk. However, a significantly increased risk for ovarian tumor diagnosis occurred in the first year following stimulation, suggesting that hormonal stimulation may promote the growth of pre-existing ovarian tumors.

The authors note that while a difference was seen in the rate of boarderline ovarian tumors between women who underwent hormonal stimulation over those who didn’t, larger studies are required to determine what kinds of changes occur in the ovaries in response to hormonal stimulation and to examine the risk of invasive ovarian cancer compared to borderline ovarian tumors after IVF treatment. Additional factors also increase a woman’s risk of getting ovarian cancer, including genetics, personal history, increased age, hormone replacement therapy, and infertility itself. This information will aid patients and their clinicians in the decision-making process when deciding to participate in some fertility treatments.

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