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Babies born via IVF are at higher risk of developing cancer at childhood, researchers reveal.Jilted Ballerina/Flickr

Babies born via in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatment are at higher risk of developing cancer at childhood, researchers reveal.

The study published in the journal Fertility and Sterility found that fertility treatments increased the risk of childhood cancer by 33 percent.

Dr Marie Hargreave, from the Danish Cancer Society research centre, Copenhagen in Denmark and colleagues found that fertility treatments can alter the function of some genes while they are being transferred from the parent to the child. They said that different types of fertility treatments like freezing embryos and semen preparation trigger these changes, increasing the development of many faults in the genes, Mail Online reported.

For the study, the Danish researchers looked at 25 studies conducted in 12 countries and results showed that fertility treatments escalated the risk of developing leukaemia by 65 percent; brain and central nervous system cancer by 88 percent.

However, the researchers couldn't completely establish whether the risk was caused entirely by infertility treatments or the parents' infertility played a role. "The results of the largest meta-analysis on this topic to date indicate an association between fertility treatment and cancer in offspring," the authors wrote, while concluding their study. "However, our results do not rule out that factors related to underlying subfertility, rather than the procedure itself, are the most important predisposing factors for childhood cancer."

The findings reflect a 2012 study presented by a team of French researchers at the Childhood Cancer conference in London. Study leader Dr Jeremie Rudant, from the Centre for Research in Epidemiology and Population Health at the INSERM research institute in Villejuif, Paris cited that fertility drugs more than doubled (2.6 times) the risk of children developing acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL), which is the most common childhood form of leukaemia and increased the risk of another rare form known as acute myeloid leukaemia (AML), by 2.3times. Investigators also viewed high risks associated with the children of the women who conceived naturally after trying hard to get pregnant for more than one year. This indicated lower fertility also as a major risk factor.

Infertility is a term used to explain the inability of a woman to conceive after two years of constant efforts. IVF (In Vitro Fertilization) is an artificial method known as Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) adopted by people who experience difficulties in conceiving naturally. It is the process of manually combining an egg and sperm in a laboratory. Intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), cryopreservation and intrauterine insemination (IUI) are some of the other ART methods commonly used.

As fertility treatments became more common, concerns about the treatments also started stemming up. Previous studies have shown that IVF babies are at higher risk of birth defects and asthma or wheezing, compared to naturally conceived children.