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Bust a Myth about Fertility Drugs

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Fertility Myths

I would never take fertility drugs — they cause ovarian and breast cancer.

Fertility Facts

A few early studies had conflicting results about the link between fertility drugs and ovarian cancer. However, more recent studies have found the use of fertility drugs does not increase a woman’s risk of ovarian cancer.

According to information from a Practice Committee of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM ) called “Use of exogenous gonadotropins in anovulatory women: a technical bulletin,” published in Fertility & Sterility in 2008:

    Earlier concerns that OI (ovulation induction) might be associated with an increased risk for cancer of the ovary and breast have not been corroborated by subsequent studies. Although the risk for ovarian cancer may be higher for infertile women than fertile women, there is no compelling evidence to indicate that the risk is increased by OI.

“What they are implying is that while infertile women may have a higher risk of ovarian cancer, it is likely due to something inherently wrong with their ovaries that also makes them infertile, rather than as a result of taking fertility medications,” says Gina Paoletti-Falcone, RN, BSN, Clinical Educator at Freedom Fertility Pharmacy. “Interesting enough, women who take fertility meds are more likely to have TVUS (transvaginal ultrasound) of their ovaries, which is one of the screening tools identified to screen for ovarian cancer.”

In addition, a 2009 study from Danish researchers, published on the British Medical Journal website, examined the effects of fertility drugs on ovarian cancer risk by analyzing data on 54,362 women with infertility problems referred to all Danish fertility clinics between 1963 and 1998. After adjusting for several risk factors, the researchers assessed the effects of four groups of fertility drugs over an average period of 16 years. They found no overall increased risk for ovarian cancer after use of any fertility drug. They also found no increased risk among women who had undergone 10 or more cycles of treatment or among those who did not become pregnant.

Fertility drugs do not appear to be associated with an increased risk of breast cancer, either. In a 2007 study, those same Danish researchers evaluated the effects of different types of fertility drugs on the risk of breast cancer, after taking into account reproductive factors that are known to affect the risk. After adjustment, the researchers found that Clomid and four synthetic hormones used to boost fertility did not significantly affect the risk of breast cancer.