Find below the press release written and published by INSERM:

Inserm scientists in the Epidemiology of Childhood and Adolescent Cancers team (EPICEA – UMR Inserm 1153)[1] and the EPI-PHARE scientific interest group (ANSM/Cnam), together with experts in assisted reproduction (AMP), publish in the journal JAMA Network Open the results of a large-scale study designed to compare the cancer risk of children conceived by AMP with that of children conceived naturally. Involving over 8.5 million children born in France between 2010 and 2021, this is one of the largest studies to date of cancer risk in children conceived by MPA.

The study shows no increase in the risk of all types of cancer in children conceived using MPA, but it does suggest a very slight increase in the risk of leukemia in these children.

MPA concerns around 1 in 30 births in France (see box). Limited and heterogeneous data have suggested increases in the risk of certain health disorders, notably cancers, among children conceived by MPA. Large-scale assessment of the risk of cancer is essential and constitutes a priority research objective, as recently emphasized in a report by the French National Academy of Medicine[2].

Scientists from Inserm and EPI-PHARE, together with MPA specialists, have assessed this cancer risk in one of the world’s largest cohorts of children born after MPA.

They used data from the French National Health Data System (SNDS)[3] to identify children conceived by MPA (artificial insemination, conventional in vitro fertilization-IVF or with micro-injection-ICSI) and detect the occurrence of cancer in children conceived with and without MPA.

In total, the study covered the 8,526,306 children born in France between 2010 and 2021, of whom 260,236 (3%) were conceived by MPA, and followed them up to a median age of 6.7 years.

During this follow-up, 9,256 children, including 292 conceived by AMP, developed cancer. The risk of all types of cancer was no higher in children conceived after MPA than in those conceived naturally.

However, a slight increase in the risk of leukemia was observed in children conceived by IVF or ICSI. This increase is very small, of the order of one additional case per 5,000 newborns conceived by IVF or ICSI who have reached the age of 10. It requires confirmation.

The absence of an overall increase in cancer risk is reassuring. Epidemiological follow-up will nevertheless be continued to better assess the risk of cancer in the longer term. We also need to continue our research efforts to understand which mechanisms linked to AMP techniques or fertility problems in the parents could induce the increased risk of leukemia, if confirmed.

  • [1] The team is part of the Centre de Recherche en Epidémiologie et Statistiques – CRESS (Inserm/Université Paris Cité).
  • [2] Jouannet P, Claris O, Le Bouc Y. Report 23-07. Medium- and long-term health of children conceived by in vitro fertilization (IVF). Bull Acad Ntle Med 2023; 207: 695-705.
  • [3] The SNDS brings together the main existing public health databases. The SNDS aims to improve knowledge of medical care and broaden the scope of health-related research, studies and assessments.

Medically assisted procreation (MAP) helps couples to conceive a child when it is difficult or impossible for them to procreate naturally. The techniques most frequently used are artificial insemination and invitro fertilization (IVF), either conventional or by intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) with fresh or frozen embryo transfer.

In this cohort, 60,106 of these children were born after artificial insemination, 133,965 after fresh embryo transfer and 66,165 after frozen embryo transfer following conventional IVF or ICSI.

For more information on these techniques, visit the Inserm website or the Agence de la biomédecine website.

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