Assisted Reproductive Technology Linked to Increased Risk of Childhood Cancers

October 07, 2022

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The Shin Kong Wu Ho-Su Memorial Hospital supported the study. The study authors report no relevant financial disclosures. Hargreave does not report relevant financial disclosures.

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Conception through assisted reproductive technology appeared to be associated with an increased risk of childhood cancers compared with natural conception or subfertility and unassisted reproductive technology conception methods, the study results showed.

Premature delivery or low birth weight could not explain the increased cancer risk, according to the findings, published in Open JAMA Network.

Hazard ratios for childhood cancer risk with assisted reproductive technology conception

Data derived from Weng SS, et al. JAMA Net Open. 2022;doi:10.1001/jamannetworkopen.2022.30157.


The number of children conceived through assisted reproductive technology continues to rise worldwide, and these children may be at increased risk of genetic alterations and adverse perinatal outcomes that may be associated with childhood cancers, according to Shiue-Shan Weng, PhD, researcher at the Institute of Public Health at National Yang Ming Chiao Tung University in Taiwan, and colleagues.

For this reason, the researchers sought to determine the association between three different modes of conception (natural conception, subfertility, and unassisted reproductive technology, or assisted reproductive technology) and childhood cancers. They also evaluated the possible association between increased cancer risk and preterm birth and low birth weight.

The nationwide population-based cohort study included data from 2,308,016 parent-child triads (mean paternal age, 33.28 years; mean maternal age, 30.83 years) in Taiwan between 2004 and 2017. The median follow-up was 6 years.


The researchers identified 1,880 children with incident cancer.

Results showed an association between conception using assisted reproductive technology and an increased risk of any type of childhood cancer compared with natural conception methods (HR = 1.58; 95% CI, 1.17-2.12 ) and subfertility with conception without assisted reproductive technology (HR, 1.42; 95% CI, 1.04-1.95).

Common cancers associated with assisted reproductive technology conception included leukemia (HR = 2.1; 95% CI, 1.2 to 3.7) and liver tumor (HR = 2.71; 95% CI , 1.28 to 5.73), according to the researchers.

Overall, 8.16% of the children were born preterm and 7.38% had low birth weight. Of note, the researchers found that these factors did not facilitate the increased risk of cancer associated with conception with assisted reproductive technology.

In addition, children conceived through assisted reproductive technology seemed more likely to have older, first-time parents who resided in more urbanized areas and had higher family incomes.

The researchers reported limitations of the study, including the use of data from the entire population of Taiwan. In addition, a lower incidence rate for childhood cancers resulted in a limited number of cases for several types of childhood cancers and therefore could not be accurately analyzed.


The study is the latest in a long series of reports showing an association between the use of fertility treatments and the risk of childhood cancer, strengthening growing evidence for the role of fertility treatment in the development of childhood cancer, according to a accompanying editorial of Maria HargreaveDoctor, researcher at the Research Center of the Danish Cancer Society in Denmark.

“However, whether the increased risk is associated with specific assisted reproductive technology procedures, certain fertility drugs, or underlying parental infertility remains to be investigated and will be important in furthering the understanding and possible prevention of cancer in children.” Hargreave wrote. .

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