CircleBumpCheckedFilledMedicalBookmarkBookmarkTickBookmarkAddCheckBoxCheckBoxFilled

​Can Fertility Drugs Cause Cancer?​ Here’s the Good News

save article
profile picture of Ivy Jacobson
By Ivy Jacobson, Associate Editor, The Knot
Updated March 2, 2017
Hero Image

Taking fertility drugs? Here’s one less thing to be concerned about: A new study from the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology reveals that there’s “little evidence” of fertility hormones increasing the long-term risk of breast or gynecological cancers.

Researchers conducted a 30-year follow-up study, after 12,193 women were treated for infertility between 1965 and 1988 in the US. Follow-up studies lasted until 2010, with a total of 9,892 women “successfully followed” for their cancer results.

“Despite the biologic plausibility, results of studies of fertility drugs and breast and gynecological cancers present a mixed picture, with some showing increases in risk, others decreases, and still others showing no substantial associations,” says Humberto Scoccia, MD, from the University of Illinois at Chicago, who presented the study’s findings. “However, most of these studies had small numbers with relatively short follow-up periods, and were unable to control for other cancer predictors — including the indications for drug usage, such as anovulation or endometriosis, which could independently affect cancer risk. Many questions remain unresolved.”

Scoccia also explained that fertility drugs increase the levels of the female hormones estradiol and progesterone, which are both known to be catalysts in breast, ovarian and uterine cancers. Drugs, like clomiphene and fertility hormones derived from human subjects (human menopausal gonadotrophins, hMG, and follicle stimulating hormone, FSH), also stimulate the ovaries for ovulation induction and IVF.  hMG and FSH weren’t used much until the 1980s, and then clomiphene was the most dominant fertility drug in use.

“Given that the majority of our women who received gonadotrophins also received clomiphene, it is likely that the increased risk among nulligravid women reflects an effect on risk of their infertility rather than that of drug usage,” he adds.

Out of the 9,892 subjects included in the 30-year follow-up, 749 breast, 119 uterine and 85 ovarian cancers were identified.

How do you feel about this study?

Please note: The Bump and the materials and information it contains are not intended to, and do not constitute, medical or other health advice or diagnosis and should not be used as such. You should always consult with a qualified physician or health professional about your specific circumstances.

save article
ADVERTISEMENT

Next on Your Reading List

How to Choose the Type of Artificial Insemination That’s Right for You
How to Choose the Type of Artificial Insemination That’s Right for You
Medically Reviewed by Kendra Segura, MD
Serious woman at home in her bedroom.
What to Know About Ovulation Pain When You’re Trying to Conceive
Medically Reviewed by Kendra Segura, MD
woman taking ovulation test on toilet at home
8 Best Ovulation Tests to Find Your Fertile Days, Based on Our Testing
Medically Reviewed by Kendra Segura, MD
ADVERTISEMENT
doctor talking to patient about fertility process
10 Crazy Fertility Myths—Debunked
Medically Reviewed by Kendra Segura, MD
illustration of sperm moving towards egg
Calculating Your Fertile Window: When Are You Most Fertile?
Medically Reviewed by Kendra Segura, MD
husband hugging worried wife
How to Deal When Everyone Else Is Pregnant (and You’re TTC)
Fact Checked by Denise Porretto
happy young couple eating breakfast at home
10 Things to Avoid When Trying to Get Pregnant
Medically Reviewed by Kendra Segura, MD
ADVERTISEMENT
Frida Fertility
Frida Launches New Line of No-Nonsense Fertility Products
By Wyndi Kappes
woman tracking her menstrual cycle on calendar
How Long Does It Take to Get Pregnant?
By Korin Miller
woman looking at contraceptive pills and calendar on phone
How to Get Pregnant Fast: Tips for Trying to Conceive
By Stacey Feintuch
ADVERTISEMENT
young couple enjoying breakfast at home
New Study Suggests Intermittent Fasting Could Have Impact on Fertility
By Wyndi Kappes
illustrative image of a woman's menstrual cycle
Can You Get Pregnant on Your Period?
By Rose Walano
10 slides
Now Eat This! the 10 Best Foods for Boosting Fertility
Now Eat This! the 10 Best Foods for Boosting Fertility
Medically Reviewed by Kendra Segura, MD
ADVERTISEMENT
12 Fertility-Boosting Yoga Moves in GIFs
12 Fertility-Boosting Yoga Moves in GIFs
Medically Reviewed by Kendra Segura, MD
close up of baby bump in black and white
Why I Can’t Be There: an Open Letter to My Pregnant Friends
By Natalie Dale, MD
IUI: Your Guide to Intrauterine Insemination
IUI: Your Guide to Intrauterine Insemination
By Maggie Overfelt
8 Shocking Facts About Trying to Get Pregnant
8 Shocking Facts About Trying to Get Pregnant
By Kylie McConville
ADVERTISEMENT
young woman smiling coyly and and walking through city streets
8 Signs of Fertility to Look for Each Month
By Temeka Zore, MD
Getting Pregnant Checklist
Getting Pregnant Checklist
By The Bump Editors
couple cooking together in kitchen
9 Common Fertility Mistakes When Trying to Conceive
By Laura Schocker
ADVERTISEMENT
Article removed.
Article removed.
Name added. View Your List