Cancer patients' reproductive options in doubt after Alabama IVF ruling

A recent Alabama Supreme Court ruling that frozen embryos are considered children under the law has worried cancer patients who use in vitro fertilization to preserve their reproductive options, The Washington Post reported Feb. 25.

In late February, the Alabama court ruled that embryos created by IVF are considered children and embryos that are destroyed or damaged could lead to civil liability. Many fertility clinics have halted operations in the state. Physicians and patients have spoken out against the ruling, noting that frozen embryos are the safest method for women trying to conceive through IVF and have fewer complications than using fresh embryos, NBC News reported Feb. 24. 

Many cancer patients use assisted reproductive technology to preserve reproductive abilities before undergoing cancer treatments. 

"We're leaving a lot of young men and women to deal with the long-lasting effects of the cancer treatments, and some of those effects could be infertility and premature menopause," Deanna Gerber, a gynecologic oncologist at New York City-based NYU Langone Perlmutter Cancer Center who is a triple-negative breast cancer survivor, told the Post.

Physicians say egg and embryo freezing can be a safety net for people with cancer who want to have families in the future. About 2% of babies born each year arrive via IVF, according to CDC data. Concerns become more prevalent as more cancer cases are diagnosed in people younger than 50, and cancer cases are projected to reach record highs of more than 2 million new cases in 2024. Colon cancer trends have been particularly concerning, with the proportion of diagnoses among people younger than 55 increasing from 11% in 1995 to 20% in 2019. 

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