Why would anyone think to ask this question? Well the truth is, as modern science gets better at hacking and tricking nature from taking the natural course of time and genetics, we should ask ourselves what the potential trade off on risks of these technologies are.
The use of assisted fertility comes in many forms. The simplest infertility medicine for most women is the tracking of a woman’s ovulation (the day the fertile egg is released) with temperature and hormone tests to increase the odds of pregnancy. Sometimes, more medicine is needed, medications to stimulate ovulation or bio-identical hormone supplements to balance a woman’s or a man’s reproductive system is also a common therapy used to help couples get pregnant. When we get to the level of infertility medicine that involves artificial insemination and the harvesting then the frozen storage of eggs, the risks for mother and fetus are greater. Now that frozen embryo storage and transfer technology has been used for fertility issues for over 30 years, we are now able to look at the lifetime risk of many diseases for the children born from frozen embryos. The children born from frozen embryo technology are old enough for doctors to make comparisons with other populations.
New research published in December 2019 “JAMA” found that there is no increased risk of disease for children born from assisted fertility medicines, in vitro fertilization (IVF) or intra-cytoplasmic sperm injections. The researchers in Denmark found that the risk for cancer is increased in people born with frozen embryo technologies. They found that babies conceived through assisted reproduction involving frozen embryo transfer were more than twice as likely to develop cancer, particularly childhood cancers like leukemia and neuroblastoma when compared to children born without frozen embryo transfer.
Summary Point: Children born with the aid of frozen embryo transfer technology should be screened for cancer more carefully than other children.
My Discussion: I propose that the increased risk of cancer in frozen embryo technologies could be due to the damage to the mitochondria organelles in the frozen embryo. Freezing cells can be done, and those frozen cells can be revived to live, but, those revived cells do have damaged cell structures. Most frozen cells have damaged mitochondria. Cells with damaged mitochondria will not be as good at producing energy. Cells with low energy reserves will not be able to maintain themselves and thus make mistakes in replication which then increases the risk of metabolic diseases like cancer.
Freezing and reviving cells is one laboratory method of creating cancer cells. From this finding, it raises concerns that frozen stem cell technology will also increase the risk of cancer in people who receive frozen stem cells. Some people may have banked their own frozen stem cells when they were younger or they received frozen stem cells from a donor. I have not seen any research to indicate this yet. But, it will take years of follow up on frozen stem cell recipients to detect any increased risk of cancer. It has taken 30 years to detect the frozen embryo cancer risk.