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Study: In Vitro Babies Prone to Childhood Cancer

test tube babyScientists are calling for more research after a Swedish study found evidence that children conceived through in vitro fertilization are four times more likely of developing certain birth defects, and have a much higher risk of developing childhood cancers.

The Leader is reporting that the study, conducted by researchers at the University of Lund in Sweden and published in the online journal Human Reproduction earlier this month, found that children conceived through in vitro fertilization have a 42 percent chance of developing childhood cancer.

Infants conceived in fertility clinics are also four times more likely to have certain birth defects and malformations than children conceived naturally. Among the defects are heart problems, cleft lip, cleft palate and abnormalities of the rectum and esophagus. These abnormalities occur once in every 700 births.

"Assisted reproductive techniques, such as fertilization 'in vitro', which requires doctors to work with embryos and sperm outside the human body, increased these serious dangers," The Leader reports.

"I think it's important to consider the fact that there may be a risk of birth defects", says Jennita Reefhuis , epidemiologist from the Centers for Birth Defects Research and author of the study.

Even though her study linked fertility procedures to birth defects, she said it did not demonstrate or explain this connection.

"If the connection is real, it is not known whether the procedures increase the risk of these malformations, or whether infertility itself raises this risk," The Leader reports.

Dr. James A. Grifo, director of the fertility clinic at the Medical Center of New York University, called for more research due to the small sample size of the study.

Nevertheless, "the results are worrisome but, with a small sample of patients, we need to do a larger study," Dr. Grifo added.

Dr. Alan R. Fleishman, vice president of the March of Dimes, called the study important, saying that it "confirms the direction in which we were concerned, that of an increase in some structural birth defects in children born with assisted reproductive techniques. Women who choose to undergo this fertility treatment should be informed of the risk of birth defects in their children”.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than one percent of all infants born in the U.S. every year are conceived using assisted reproductive technology (ART).

"Although the use of ART is still relatively rare as compared to the potential demand, its use has doubled over the past decade," the CDC reports.

The Catholic Church considers only those methods of ART that assist marital intercourse in reaching its procreative potential to be moral.

Any procedures which add a "third party" into the act of conception, or which substitute a laboratory procedure for intercourse, are not acceptable.

Click here to read more about which forms of ART are acceptable for Catholics.

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