A new study published in Fertility and Sterility (1) found that women who used Clomid (Clomiphene Citrate) and never ended up achieving a pregnancy were over 3.5 times more likely to get ovarian cancer. The average woman’s chance of ovarian cancer is 1 in 72 according to the american cancer society.(2) Therefore, if an average woman takes Clomid the cancer incidence becomes 1 in 20 if they don’t end up getting pregnant ever. To make matters worse, infertility patients are often already at higher risk for ovarian cancer. According to the CDC, ovarian cancer risks are increased in: women who are middle aged or older, women who have difficulty getting pregnant, women who have never given birth, women with endometriosis, and Ashkenazi Jewish women.(3)
Somehow, the authors of the study felt the results were “reassuring”, and that Clomid use is safe (with the exception of the subpopulation of women who didn’t end up getting pregnant). Our risk assessment is very different than theirs. In our opinion, Clomid should almost never be used. The same study found that the use of gonadotropins (another set of drugs that can be substituted for Clomid) had no increased risk of ovarian cancer. The biggest difference between the two types of medication is cost. Gonadotropins are much more expensive than Clomid, but then again ovarian cancer treatment is not cheap either.
Our advice is to discuss your risk factors with your doctor and ask about the possibility of using gonadotropins instead of Clomid. If you have already taken Clomid and have not gotten pregnant, Chinese herbal medicine can help to reduce the risk of ovarian cancer. For example, Reishi mushrooms and Scutellaria Barbata were shown to help prevent proliferation of ovarian cancer.(4)(5)
(1) Ovulation-inducing drugs and ovarian cancer risk: results from an extended follow-up of a large US infertility cohort
Britton Trabert, Ph.D.a, , , Emmet J. Lamb, M.D.b, Bert Scoccia, M.D.c, Kamran S. Moghissi, M.D.d, Carolyn L. Westhoff, M.D.e, Shelley Niwa, M.A.f, Louise A. Brinton, Ph.D.a
Fertility and Sterility, Available online 5 September 2013
(4) Int J Mol Med. 2011 Dec;28(6):1065-9. doi: 10.3892/ijmm.2011.788. Epub 2011 Sep 1. Suppression of proliferation and oxidative stress by extracts of Ganoderma lucidum in the ovarian cancer cell line OVCAR-3. Hsieh TC, Wu JM.
(5) Gynecol Oncol. 2003 Nov;91(2):332-40. Aqueous extract of herba Scutellaria barbatae, a chinese herb used for ovarian cancer, induces apoptosis of ovarian cancer cell lines.