Hormones can play an important role in how breast cancer develops and grows. The medicines used to treat women's infertility problems affect hormone levels. So researchers wondered whether infertility treatments might increase breast cancer risk.
A large study shows that infertility treatments don’t appear to increase breast cancer risk.
The research, “Breast cancer incidence after hormonal infertility treatments: Systematic review and meta-analysis of population based studies,” was presented on Dec. 13, 2013 at the 2013 San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium.
This study was a meta-analysis – a study that combines and analyzes the results of many earlier studies. In this case, the researchers looked at 50 studies involving more than 100,000 women.
The researchers looked at:
- how long the women were followed after they took hormonal infertility treatments: less than 10 years or more than 10 years
- the type of hormonal infertility treatment taken: Clomid (chemical name: clomiphene) or a gonadotropin, such as Ovidrel or Pregnyl (chemical name: human chorionic gonadotropin), Bravelle or Repronex (chemical name: human menopausal gonadotropin), or Follistim or Gonal-F (chemical name: recombinant human follicle-stimulating hormone)
The researchers compared the rates of breast cancer in women who took hormonal infertility treatments to women who were infertile and didn’t take hormonal infertility treatments.
Overall, hormonal infertility treatments seemed to have no effect on breast cancer risk. The researchers did say that when women were followed for longer times, there was a suggestion that breast cancer risk went up slightly, but that more research was needed.
The researchers also found that infertile women seemed to have a higher risk of breast cancer, which may explain why some of the studies reviewed suggested a link between infertility treatments and breast cancer risk. Instead of the fertility treatments increasing risk, it may be that being infertile puts women at higher risk. Again, more research is needed to better understand the relationship between infertility and breast cancer risk.
If you’re considering fertility treatments or have used them in the past, this study is very reassuring. The researchers concluded that women and their doctors do not need to worry about hormonal infertility treatments increasing breast cancer risk.
If you are having fertility issues, you may want to visit the RESOLVE website. RESOLVE is an organization that provides education and support to people with fertility problems and has local chapters throughout the United States. For more information, visit www.resolve.org.