Is There a Link Between Fertility Meds & Breast Cancer?

Women, who are unable to conceive by natural means, may be prescribed fertility medications to increase their likelihood of conceiving. However, some past studies had associated the use of fertility medications with an increased risk for developing breast cancer. Recently, a large study concluded that there was no such link between the two.

Fertility medications work similar to a woman’s hormones, and stimulate the release of eggs from the ovaries. These medications may be used alone or in conjunction with other types of assisted reproductive technologies, such as in vitro fertilization (IVF). For many years, there was growing speculations regarding the long term health risks (particularly, breast cancer) of using fertility medications.breastca

The most recent study looked at 12,913 women who were treated for infertility in 5 different US hospitals between the years 1965 and 1988. Out of these women, 9,892 individuals were followed up until 2010. It was observed that 749 patients developed breast cancer. However, the study found no increased risk for breast cancer with the use of clomiphene citrate (Clomid) or gonadotropins.

The current research, published in the journal of Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, has several strengths worth mentioning. This was a large study, looking at a significant number of women with established infertility issues. Furthermore, in order to reach an objective conclusion, the researchers had controlled for other known causative factors for breast cancer or infertility.

Although a link was not found between the use of clomiphene citrate or gonadotropins on breast cancer incidence in this population, a few likely associations were reported by this study. For example, women who were given 12 or more cycles of clomiphene citrate showed a 1.5 times more likelihood of developing breast cancer, as compared with women who were not using fertility medications. However, 12 cycles of fertility medications far exceeds current practice standard of 3 – 6 cycles. Moreover, current guidelines recommend medication doses are up to 100 mg, as compared with the 250 mg dose used in the study.

rmfc building logo1 smallIn addition, the study noted an increased risk of developing breast cancer in women who were unable to conceive even after the clomiphene citrate or gonadotropin cycles, as compared with women receiving no fertility drugs. According to the researchers, the increased incidence of breast cancer in this subpopulation of patients may be due to their persistent infertility. Therefore, a direct correlation cannot be made in this subset between breast cancer risk and fertility medication usage.

Finally, the study reported that the average age of women who developed breast cancer in this study was 53; this age is slightly lower than the typical age for developing breast cancer. Therefore, the researchers have stressed the importance of constant monitoring of women who start fertility medications and are close to the typical age range for breast cancer.

Overall, this recent study throws valuable light on the lack of a clear connection between the use of fertility medications and the risk for breast cancer. By following the established guidelines for fertility drug treatments, women can now feel reassured knowing that they are not increasing their likelihood of developing breast cancer.

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