Results of previous studies refuted
According to a study, artificial insemination does not increase the risk of cancer in the offspring - at least until early adulthood. This is reported by Dutch researchers in the journal "Human Reproduction". The extensive investigation contradicts the results of previous studies.
Ludwig Kiesel, Director of the Clinic and Polyclinic for Obstetrics and Gynecology in Münster, considers the study to be an important scientific contribution to the debate on artificial insemination:
The statements are very helpful when doctors advise couples.
The team around Flora van Leeuwen of The Netherlands Cancer Institute in Amsterdam relied on data from women who had been treated at one of 14 Dutch specialist clinics from 1980 to 2001. A total of 47,690 children were considered, more than half of them were born after artificial insemination.
Investigations over a whole lifespan not yet possible
Cancer risks were evaluated in about half of the children before their 21st birthday, and later in others. Since artificial insemination has only been available since the end of the 1970s, it has not been possible to do research on a whole lifespan.
The cancer rates of artificially conceived children were neither elevated in comparison to the general population, nor compared to those naturally conceived children whose mothers had conception difficulties. The very long follow-up period is an extraordinary achievement and supports the meaningfulness of the result, said clinic director Kiesel. However, cancer is generally rare in children, so the case numbers for individual types of cancer are low and require further investigation.
Larger study expected
Physicians use different methods of artificial insemination. In the so-called intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), a sperm cell is injected directly into an egg cell. In contrast, in a classical artificial insemination, oocytes with processed sperm are brought together in a test tube.
For those children who were born with ICSI or in children whose embryos had been frozen in the meantime, the researchers found a slightly increased cancer risk, which is not statistically significant.
Van Leeuwen is already working on a larger study, according to a statement: "We are currently expanding our study to more than 30,000 children born from artificial insemination who have been born in recent years."