By Wesley J. Smith, J.D., Special Consultant to the CBC

IVF has been painted as a virtually risk free enterprise. But we haven’t much studied the long term impact on children — who appear to have higher rates of certain health issues than those conceived through the natural process — or on women who have had their ovaries hyper-stimulated to produce eggs. Now, a new study indicates that subfertile women who were stimulated have higher rates of ovarian tumors than subfertile women who did not go through the IVF process. From the Human Reproduction Journal Report:

The long-term risk for ovarian malignancies (ovarian cancer and borderline ovarian tumours) is twice as high among women who undergo ovarian stimulation for IVF compared with subfertile women not treated with IVF. This is due to the increased incidence of borderline ovarian tumours, according to the research, published online today (Thursday Oct. 27) in Europe’s leading reproductive medicine journal Human Reproduction . . .

Prof van Leeuwen said: “We found that of the 25,152 subfertile women included in the analysis 77 had ovarian malignancies. Surprisingly, of the 61 women who had ovarian malignancies in the IVF treatment group, 31 had borderline ovarian cancer and 30 had invasive ovarian cancer. This proportion of ovarian borderline tumours was unusually high. Borderline ovarian tumours are tumours with a low malignancy potential, which means that they are not fatal, but would require extensive surgery and cause substantial morbidity.&#8221

This study apparently only looked at the subsequent health results of women who had IVF to get pregnant using their own eggs, versus those who didn’t. But I think the study is also pertinent to the issue of egg donors generally. There were no differences noted in the risk of invasive ovarian cancer.

Egg procurement from women not being treated for infertility has become a big business. For example, college women are paid big bucks for their eggs for use in IVF, particularly if they are eugenically correct–beautiful, smart, healthy. Indeed, ounce for ounce, human eggs may be the most valuable commodity on the planet.

The demand for eggs will only grow. In order to further the cloning agenda, some biotechnology advocates, frustrated by their lack of progress perfecting human cloning–caused in part by the human egg dearth–are pushing for the legal right to buy eggs for use in biotechnological research. If cloning becomes feasible and reaches industrial levels, hundreds of thousands, even millions of eggs will be needed, since one egg is needed for each cloning attempt. (Creating eggs out of stem cells or using cadaver ovaries to harvest eggs for use in cloning remains a distant prospect.)

The study did not look at hyper stimulated women with normal functioning ovaries. Still, I think, the potential long term risk for developing ovarian tumors should be discussed with all egg donors/sellers regardless of their fecundity, as part of the informed consent process, particularly since some women donate more than once and egg donation is not therapeutic to the donor.

As the Center for Bioethics and Culture’s documentary Eggslpoitation reveals, egg extraction can be very dangerous to women’s health. This study adds to the concern.