Study finds possible link between infertility and some cancers

medical team

In a study released this week in Journal of Clinical Oncology, Dr. Kutluk Oktay, MD, Director, Division of Reproductive Medicine & Infertility, discovered that mutations of a certain type of gene, the BRCA1 gene which is associated with early onset breast cancer, is also associated with early diminishment of egg reserve. This may explain the link between infertility and breast/ovarian cancer risks.

It is estimated that one in every 1000 women has a mutated BRCA gene -- a gene associated with an increased risk of cancer. For some ethnic groups, the incidence of mutation is as high as 2.5%. Regardless of underlying mechanisms of early diminishment of egg reserve in BRCA1 mutation-positive women, the findings may have profound implications for the future fertility of a large number of women in the general population. More research is clearly needed.

Dr. Oktay’s team performed ovarian stimulation on 126 women with breast cancer. 82 of those women met the inclusion criteria. Of those women, 57% underwent the BRCA testing and 14 of them had a mutation in the BRCA gene. In these mutation-positive patients, low ovarian response rate was significantly higher compared with the others. All of the BRCA-mutation positive who had low egg production after ovarian stimulation had BRCA1 mutations. The women with BRCA2 mutations did not experience low response to the ovarian stimulation. BRCA1 seems to be the connection to low egg production in these cancer patients.

The study concludes that there is a novel association between low response to ovarian stimulation with fertility drugs and BRCA1 mutations. It’s a possible link with very interesting implications for fertility and cancer treatment. Larger studies are warranted.

Source: Westchester Medical Center


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