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Infertility in Women Linked to Modestly Elevated Cancer Risk

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THURSDAY, March 14, 2019 — Infertility seems to be associated with an increased risk for cancer in women, according to a study published online March 13 in Human Reproduction.

Gayathree Murugappan, M.D., from Stanford Hospital and Clinics in California, and colleagues conducted a retrospective cohort analysis between 2003 and 2016 using an insurance claims database. A total of 64,345 infertile women were compared to 3,128,345 noninfertile patients for development of any malignancy and individual cancers.

The researchers found that compared with noninfertile women, infertile women had an overall higher risk for developing cancer (2.0 versus 1.7 percent; adjusted hazard ratio [aHR], 1.18). Compared with noninfertile women, infertile women had increased risks for uterine cancer (0.10 versus 0.06 percent; aHR, 1.78), ovarian cancer (0.14 versus 0.09 percent; aHR, 1.64), lung cancer (0.21 versus 0.21 percent; aHR, 1.38), thyroid cancer (0.21 versus 0.16 percent; aHR, 1.29), leukemia (0.10 versus 0.06 percent; adjusted aHR, 1.55), and liver and gallbladder cancer (0.05 versus 0.03 percent; aHR, 1.59). In a subgroup analysis of women in each cohort who became pregnant and had a delivery during enrollment, infertile and noninfertile women had similar risks for uterine and ovarian cancer.

“While the absolute increase in cancer risk with infertility is small, this increase was seen within only four years of infertility diagnosis, strongly supporting the need for further study to determine what factors influence the long-term cancer risk for infertile women,” the authors write.

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