In-Vitro Babies Show (Slightly) Higher Risk for Cancer

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Research shows invitro babies may be at higher risk of birth defects. Credit: Stefan Wermuth, AFP/Getty Images

Many people feared "test tube babies" in the '70s and '80s.

The whole in-vitro thing seemed so unnatural. Critics feared it would lead to mutant children at a higher risk of birth defects, cancer and a whole slew of genetic complications.

Turns out their fears were justified. Just a little.

Swedish researchers, in the latest issue of the journal Pediatrics, report a slightly higher risk of birth defects and some kinds of disease (including cancer) among children born through in-vitro fertilization.The Los Angeles Times reports past studies looking for a link between cancer and in-vitro fertilization have found nothing. However, according to the newspaper, the Swedish study is the largest one yet of its kind.

Researchers examined data from 26,692 children born through in-vitro fertilization between 1982 and 2005. Given the stats in the general population, 38 cases of cancer could be expected. These children, however, had 53 cases.

Accroding to the Times, researchers also found higher rates of autism among children conceived through in-vitro fertilization.

This could have nothing to do with the process itself, researchers conclude in Pediatrics. The increased cancer risk might be linked to premature labor, low birth weight and other factors. Many women resort to in-vitro fertilization because they have problems conceiving children naturally, and researchers note in the Pediatrics study that could be another factor.

"It should be stressed that the individual risk for a child who is born after IVF (in-vitro fertilization) to develop childhood cancer is low," they write.

Related: Quebec Government Will Fund IVF Treatments


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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.