Millions of women have used egg inducing drugs over more than 30 years as a part of their IVF treatment to help them have children. A new study of more than 15,000 women - 30 years after they gave birth - has suggested they are at least three times more likely to develop cancer of the womb.
The scientists who carried out the survey believe it is worth further investigation and that those who undergo the treatment should be carefully monitored. While the risks are still low, it points to a major concern as it is estimated that one in six couples have difficulty conceiving and many of them seek out help.
Dr. Ronit Calderon-Margalit at Hadassah-Hebrew University in Jerusalem and colleagues have studied the effects of these drugs by comparing cancer incidence in a group of 15,000 Israeli women 30 years after they gave birth. Ovulation-inducing drugs were prescribed to women who had trouble conceiving or who were undergoing IVF.
Of the 567 women who reported having been given ovulation-inducing fertility drugs, three times the normal incidence was reported in members of the group compared to those who had not been given these drugs. For the 362 women who took clomiphene, which tricks the body into making extra eggs by blocking oestrogen receptors, the risk was over four times that of women who did not take the drugs.
An earlier study relating fertility drugs and a link to ovarian cancer found there was no link, so this major study was quite concerning to IVF doctors.