Hmm, yes, well

Infertility could increase the chance of cancer in mid-life by almost a fifth, research suggests.

The reporting here, actually quite good.

But the four-year study of women who were in their 30s when monitoring began, found that those who suffered infertility problems were 18 per cent more likely to develop any type of cancer during the period.

Researchers stressed that the overall risk of cancer at this stage in life remained low.

Overall, those with fertility problems had an absolute risk of 2 per cent, compared with that of 1.7 per cent among other women.

See?

However, I wonder.

During the follow-up period there were 1,310 cancers diagnosed among the infertile women and 53,116 among the control group of women who were not infertile.

Breast cancer was the most common cancer in both groups.

The single largest risk factor for breast cancer is – I think I recall at least – not having brought a child to term and then nursed it.

So, I wonder, I wonder If we run this again with the infertile – presumably, those with no children – against the fertile but exclude those who already have children?

10 comments on “Hmm, yes, well

  1. A risk ratio of 1.18. It’s not worthy of expending any thought on.

    As regards your final suggestion, how do we know a woman is fertile until she’s had children?

    Also “found that those who suffered infertility problems” doesn’t scan very well. They had problems being infertile?

    For something not worthy of expending any thought on, I’ve just wasted way too much time.

  2. “The single largest risk factor for breast cancer is…..not having brought a child to term and then nursed it.”

    After genetic causes, yes.

  3. Infertility is an outcome, it cannot be a cause. Wet streets don’t cause rain.

    There are a number of causes of infertility. Could one or more of these causes explain the trivial increased cancer risk?

  4. I seem to remember a report where they compared nulliparous nuns with non-nuns, and nuns had higher incidents of breast cancer than the general population.

  5. ‘Overall, those with fertility problems had an absolute risk of 2 per cent, compared with that of 1.7 per cent among other women.’

    Wow! Hats off to Laura Donnelly, Health Editor. This is the absolutely correct way to report study implications, and is almost universally not done.

  6. Minuscule relative risk on a fishing expedition + clinically-irrelevant difference is statistically significant if you have a huge enough population. WGAF.

    Spookily enough, I just spent the whole day teaching this to a lecture hall full of oncology residents, and in so doing may have saved the planet from a few future fishing expeditions.

    JB,

    Yes, but as Tim says, the one thing you can do to stop breast cancer is have a sprog early and feed it long time (and smoking, excess alcohol, usual stuff). So one outcome, even if not desired, can lead to another.

  7. I’ve no idea. It would be academically interesting but don’t expect to find people queueing around the block for the trial. Or for the follow-up 50 years later.

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