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Fertility Treatments: Children Born After Frozen-Thawed Embryo Transfer May Have Higher Cancer Risk

The number of children born after frozen-thawed embryo transfer in fertility treatments is increasing worldwide, but they may face a serious health risk.

Written by Longjam Dineshwori |Updated : September 2, 2022 4:31 PM IST

Assisted reproductive technology (ART) is a boon for many couples struggling with fertility issues. This includes fertility treatments, such as in vitro fertilization (IVF), in which embryos are created by mixing eggs and sperm in laboratory. The fertilized egg can be immediately transferred to the uterus or may be frozen for later use (the frozen- embryo is thawed before implantation). Frozen-thawed embryo transfer constitutes a large number of fertility treatments worldwide today. But a new study has revealed that children born after frozen-thawed embryo transfer may be at higher risk of developing cancer than those born through other means.

The new study was conducted by researchers at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, and the findings were reported in the open-access journal PLOS Medicine.

Health risks associated with frozen-thawed embryo transfer

Previous studies have linked frozen-thawed transfer to higher short-term risk of certain medical issues in children, but less is known about potential long-term medical risks.

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The University of Gothenburg researchers looked at the medical data of more than 8 million children in Nordic countries, including Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden. Among these children, 171,744 were born through ART, of which 22,630 were born after frozen-thawed transfer.

Analysis of the data showed higher risk of cancer among children born after frozen-thawed embryo transfer compared to those born after fresh embryo transfer and without ART. Leukemia and tumors of the central nervous system were identified as the most common types of cancer seen in such children.

However, on increased cancer risk was found among children born after the use of ART overall.

Also, only 48 children born after frozen-thawed embryo transfer developed cancer in the study. Stating that this number is low, the researchers the need for further research to confirm the possible link between this type of fertility procedure and increased cancer risk.

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