London: Cancer survivors are 38 per cent less likely to become pregnant as compared to their healthy counterparts, a study has found.
Researchers from University of Edinburgh in the UK studied girls and women aged 39 or under. They cross-linked 23,201 female cancer survivors.
They found only 6,627 pregnancies among the cancer survivors when nearly 11,000 would have been expected in a comparable group from the general population.
For women who had not been pregnant before their cancer diagnosis, 20.6 per cent of the cancer survivors achieved a first pregnancy after diagnosis, compared with 38.7 per cent in the control group.
Women with cancer were about half as likely to achieve a first pregnancy after diagnosis as were controls, researchers said.
The team also found that the chance of pregnancy was reduced in all age groups, with substantial variations between different cancer diagnoses – notably, reduced pregnancy rates in women with cervical cancer, breast cancer and leukaemia.
However, those cancers diagnosed later within the study period (2005-2012) were associated with higher rates of pregnancy than those diagnosed earlier (1981-1988), suggesting that for some cancer treatments the impact on fertility has reduced.
The diagnosis and treatment of female cancers are known to affect fertility for several reasons: some chemotherapy regimens can cause damage to the ovary, and this can occur at any age, researchers said.
Radiotherapy can also compromise female fertility through effects on the ovary, uterus and potentially those brain centres which control the reproductive axis, they said.
“While these results do show an expected reduction in the chance of pregnancy after chemotherapy and radiotherapy, having a pregnancy after cancer does involve a range of complex issues,” said Richard Anderson, professor at Queen’s Medical Research Institute in the UK.