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New Research Says Fertility Drugs Are Not Linked to Ovarian Cancer

a blog by Holly Gregg, July 3, 2013

As a fertility patient I have ingested and injected an innumerable amount of fertility drugs in my quest to have a baby. As a result I have endured a variety of side-effects and symptoms ranging from the barely noticeable to the majorly irritating. Until recently, however, I had never considered the possibility that all of those medications and high-dose hormones that help my ovaries kick into high gear, may one day have an impact my ovarian health, namely in the form of ovarian cancer. Once it crossed my mind though, I couldn’t seem to get that scary thought out of my head.

Thankfully though, a recent study conducted by the Division of Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, suggests that the use of fertility drugs does not contribute additional risk for ovarian cancer. The study surveyed 1900 women, both with and without the cancer, and compared their use of fertility drugs with other factors known to affect ovarian cancer risk such as age and use of birth control. After conducting their study, researchers found no significant association between the use of fertility drugs and cancerous ovarian tumors.

While reading the results of this study was certainly a relief, the researchers also stated in their conclusion that because ovarian cancer is rare (The National Cancer Institute estimates 22,240 new cases of ovarian cancer this year, compared to 50,000 cases of uterine cancer and 232,340 cases of breast cancer) and because it usually develops later in life (most women are over age 55 when diagnosed with ovarian cancer) that larger, more comprehensive studies need to be conducted in order to confirm these results and to more thoroughly understand the effect of fertility drugs on cancer risk. Researchers also warn that these findings do not take into consideration long-term fertility drug use and recommend that those using them for longer than one year consider additional monitoring for tumors. They suggest that women on fertility drugs take them for the shortest amount of time, using the lowest dose possible needed to achieve pregnancy.

The following are risk factors for ovarian cancer according to the National Cancer Institute:

  • Personal or family history of cancer- Women with mothers, daughters or sisters with ovarian cancer are at increased risk as well as women with a family or personal history of breast, uterine, rectum or colon cancer.
  • Age over 55- Most ovarian cancers develop after menopause.
  • Never pregnant - Older women who have never been pregnant have an increased risk of ovarian cancer.
  • Menopausal hormone therapy- Some studies suggest that women who take estrogen by itself (estrogen without progesterone) for 10 or more years may have an increased risk of ovarian cancer.

While this study ultimately concluded that in terms of ovarian cancer risk, fertility drugs are safe, it is of course, always best to discuss any potential risk factors or concerns with your doctor. If you need assistance finding a fertility doctor in your area, contact our Patient Care Coordinators by calling 1-855-955-BABY (2229) or fill out a Contact Fertility Doctors Near Me form.


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