Tuesday, October 25, 2011 - Byron Richards, CCN

Reality TV show and E! News host Giuliana Rancic’s breast cancer has caught the attention of many people, since she is an apparently healthy 37-year-old. Her difficulties becoming pregnant have been front and center on her reality TV show. She has tried in vitro fertilization (IVF) three times. The medical community was quick to negate that IVF had anything to do with her breast cancer – how convenient.

IVF involves ovarian stimulation, designed to increase estradiol output so as to assist in the potential for pregnancy. Estradiol can be a double-edged sword. For example, women who start their menstrual cycles before age 12 have a 40 percent increased risk for breast cancer simply because they are exposed to more of their own estradiol over the course of their lifetime. Thus, dismissing the IVF-breast cancer link is quite naive, as was done by Dr. Cynara Coomer, chief of breast surgery and director of the Comprehensive Breast Center at Staten Island University Hospital, who said, “The studies that involve IVF and breast cancer are virtually inconclusive.”

While it is quite true that the medical profession does little to prove that highly lucrative procedures are dangerous, the link between IVF and breast cancer in women over 30 is a proven fact and not inconclusive. A 2008 study done by oncology researchers at the Hadassah-Hebrew University Medical Center in Jerusalem found that for women over the age of 30 IVF was linked to a 24 percent increased risk of breast cancer. This was a statistically significant finding and IVF was the only variably linked to increased breast cancer risk, causing the study authors to conclude“Women who start IVF after the age of 30 appear to be at increased risk of developing breast cancer.”Another 2008 study of 3,375 IVF-treated women found that women of any age were at a 40 percent increased risk of breast cancer following IVF and the risk jumped to 90 percent for women over age 40

These are the two most recently published studies on the subject and no study has found there is no increased risk of breast cancer for women over the age of 30 who are treated with IVF. Sure, more studies would be nice. However, those who sell the drugs and perform the treatments have no financial incentive to find out if what they are doing is actually a problem. IVF treatment is not alone in this dilemma. Possibly you remember when the makers of estrogen replacement therapy tried to prove it was good for heart disease and instead ended up proving it was too deadly to warrant giving women. From the Big Pharma point of view, that was a really good lesson in shooting yourself in the foot.

And now we have a celebrity, Giuliana Rancic, who has just gone through a double lumpectomy and is soon to have radiation treatment, grateful her breast cancer was identified at an early stage. Frankly, I’d be upset that the doctor was providing treatments without an accurate explanation of the risk and benefits. According to reports, once she gets through her cancer treatment, then she wants to try to get pregnant again. What on earth does that mean? More IVF

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