Childless After Childhood Cancer

Childhood cancer can result in infertility

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Children who have experienced cancer are living longer than ever. Researchers are now able to look at the long-term effects of cancer and cancer therapies. This news is not always welcome.

Youngsters who have beaten cancer are at higher risk of infertility later in life.

"Ask if fertility preserving measures are appropriate before cancer treatment."

German researchers have reached this conclusion following a nationwide survey involving 2,754 individuals who had cancer as children or adolescents.

Magdalena Balcerek, Dr. med., of Charité Berlin and colleagues surveyed 1,476 individuals who had lived through childhood leukemia and 1278 people who had had solid tumors.

Researchers asked about menstrual history, previous fertility testing, attempts to conceive and pregnancies.

A total of 210 of the study participants chose to undergo fertility testing. About one-third of these former cancer patients were suspected of being unable to conceive.

Those with reduced fertility included 26 percent of the former leukemia patients and 34 percent of those who had solid tumors.

One subgroup reported that they had not been able to conceive following at least 24 months of having intercourse without using any form of birth control. This meets the World Health Organization definition of infertility.

A second analysis of 201 former childhood cancer patients found suspected infertility in one quarter of them.

Because of these findings, the authors suggest that patients and/or their parents should be informed of how the youngster's fertility may be protected. 

This study was published in the March, 2012 issue of Deutsches Ärzteblatt International.

This study was supported by German Childhood Cancer Registry, German Childhood Cancer Foundation, Child Philipp Foundation for Leukemia Research and German José Carreras Leukemia Foundation

The authors declare that no conflict of interest exists.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
March 7, 2012
Last Updated:
March 7, 2012