When making the decision of what fertility treatments to pursue, one concern for many of us is cancer. Some studies have shown a higher risk of ovarian cancer from fertility drugs.
For most of us, though, the remote risk of dying of an aggressive and almost-always fatal cancer down the road pales next to the risk of dying without ever having had a child. After all, even the most alarming studies show that the risk of ovarian cancer from fertility drugs goes up a little more than 2.5 times; given the risk is only about 1.8 percent without fertility drugs, that's still pretty decent odds. Still scary, but decent.
Even so, this probably made lots of us breathe a sigh of relief: Women who did IVF before giving birth were actually less likely to get cancer than those who didn't.
A study in Sweden that followed 24,000 women who had done IVF (the largest of its kind ever done) found that they had about 25 percent less cancer risk than women who had not done IVF... a finding which surprised even the scientists doing the study.
While there was a higher risk of ovarian cancer among women who did IVF compared to women who had never done IVF treatment, the IVFers actually cut their chances of getting cancer by undergoing the procedure. More than likely, that's because whatever abnormalities in ovarian function that caused the infertility also placed the women at higher risk for cancer, and so becoming pregnant (which means no ovarian activity) actually lowered their risk.
That's incredible news for those of us who feared we were taking something of a gamble with our own health in order to have a child. Choosing between cancer and a baby is a terrible decision, and this study suggests it's not one you need to make.
Image via Adrian Clark (a.drian)/Flickr