Will Taking Fertility Drugs Increase My Risk for Breast Cancer?
When Elizabeth Edwards was diagnosed with breast cancer, many speculated that taking fertility drugs might have been a factor in causing her cancer. Some studies seemed to support that taking fertility drugs raises a woman’s risk of getting breast cancer, but so does being childless.
A woman who desperately wants a baby tries to balance those two risks. Should I take the drugs or should I remain childless? A new study led by researcher Louise Brinton at the National Cancer Institute may make the decision easier. The study looked at the medical records of over 12,000 women evaluated for infertility between 1965 and 1988. They were able to follow up with 9,892 of them with questionnaires and examination of other medical records.
The researchers found that 749 breast cancers occurred in the group, but there was no greater incidence of the disease between the women who had not used fertility drugs and the group who had used clomiphene citrate (Clomid) for fewer than 12 cycles. There did appear to be a somewhat higher risks if a woman received more than 12 cycles of Clomiphene citrate. Patients who used gonadotropins seemed to have an increased risk, but not a consistent one when researchers controlled for the underlying health conditions that led the women to go for fertility treatments.
Women who are considering fertility treatments will want to discuss this new study with their doctors. It appears that fertility drugs may be less of a risk factor for breast cancer than many people imagine, especially if just a few cycles of the drugs are used. Each woman needs to look at all of her breast cancer risk factors with her doctor and discuss whether fertility drugs are right for her.
Brinton, L. et al. “Long-term Relationship of Ovulation-Stimulating Drugs to Breast Cancer Risk.” Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention. 2014. Retrieved from http://cebp.aacrjournals.org/content/23/4/584.abstract April 4, 2014.
Cavello, J. “Long-Term Study Finds Fertility Drugs Do Not Increase Breast Cancer Risk.” April 3, 2014. Retrieved from http://www.ascopost.com/ViewNews.aspx?nid=15087 April 4, 2014.