Children born as a result of assisted conception do not have a greater risk of cancer than are children conceived by spontaneous conception, according to one of the largest surveys of its kind.

This study linked researched results from the UK’s Human Fertilisation & Embryology Authority, which maintained records of 106,381 children born after assisted conception in the UK from 1992 to 2008, with information provided by the UK's National Registry of Childhood Tumours to calculate the number of these children who subsequently had cancer. Researchers found that, throughout this 17-year study period, these children did not have an overall increased risk for cancer. Doctors identified 108 cancers in children enrolled in the study, all of whom conceived through assisted conception; in comparison, doctors would expect to diagnose 109.7 cancers in the same number of children in the general population.

Dr. Carrie Williams from the Institute of Child Health, University College London, UK, presented the study findings at an annual meeting of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE). Investigators said, “This is reassuring news for couples considering assisted conception, their subsequent children, fertility specialists and for the wider public health."

The research does suggest, however, that children born after assisted conception may be at greater risk for developing some rare types of cancer. For example, significantly more of the assisted conception children developed hepatic tumors than expected. Researchers are quick to point out the risks are small.

A similar, but smaller study produced findings comparable to the findings presented at ESHRE. The smaller study from three Nordic countries found that children born after IVF had no greater overall risk for cancer than children born after spontaneous conception did. This study followed 92,809 children born after IVF between 1982 and 2007, and a matched control group that was four times larger than the study group. A cancer diagnosis occurred in 143 children born after assisted fertilization and in 626 children in the control group. The most common cancer diagnosis was leukemia.

Couples considering assisted-conception therapy should consult with a physician or reproduction specialist to discuss cancer risk, including the baby’s family history of cancer.

Source: European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryol. "No Increased Cancer Risk In Children Born After Assisted Conception: Large UK Population Study." Medical News Today. MediLexicon, Intl., 10 Jul. 2013. Web.