Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Health effects of egg donation may take decades to emerge

Nature Published online: 9 August 2006

A Nature Special Report investigates the ethics and economics of donating eggs for stem-cell research. In the first part Erika Check investigated whether paying donors would increase supply. In this, the second part Helen Pearson asks what is known about the long-term health risks faced by donors.

In 1989, a healthy 32-year-old woman offered her infertile younger sister some of her healthy eggs, and with them the chance to have a baby. Doctors at the Cromwell IVF and Fertility Centre in London gave the donor hormones that made a batch of eggs in her ovary mature, and collected six eggs for fertilization. Three embryos were transferred to the younger sister and two were frozen. One baby girl was born. Five years later, the doctors contacted the egg donor to ask whether to discard her frozen embryos. They discovered that she had been diagnosed with late-stage colon cancer that spread to her skull. She died just before her thirty-ninth birthday. Doctors don't know if the fertility drugs caused or accelerated the woman's cancer. But the possibility prompted Cromwell infertility specialist Kamal Ahuja to report the case as a reminder of how little is known about the risks of donating eggs (K. E. Ahuja and E. G. Simons, Hum. Reprod. 13, 227–231; 1998). "It shook us all up," he says.

Full article: http://www.nature.com/news/2006/060807/full/442607a.html

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