Scientists in Israel who studied the health of more than 242,000 babies over 18 years have found that those born after fertility treatment are more likely to get cancer in their early years.

Researchers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) working at the Soroka University Medical Center in Beer-Sheva studied Israeli children born to mothers who had had IVF or ovulation induction (OI) treatment.

In findings published in American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, they found that IVF babies were almost three times more likely to go on to develop paediatric cancer and neoplasms (tumours), with OI babies twice as likely.

Illnesses included leukaemia, brain and spinal cord tumours, neuroblastomas, Wilms tumours and lymphoma, including both Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin.

“The research concludes that the association between IVF and total paediatric neoplasms and malignancies is significant,” said Professor Eyal Sheiner, dean of BGU’s Faculty of Health Sciences.

“With increasing numbers of offspring conceived after fertility treatments, it is important to follow up on their health.”

During the follow-up period, BGU and Israeli Health Ministry scientists found that the incidence rate for neoplasms was highest among children either after IVF, with 1.5 in every 1,000, while for OI births it was one in every 1,000. By comparison, the incidence rate for naturally conceived children was 0.59 in every 1,000.