A prospective cohort study of infertility and cancer incidence

Siwen Wang, Audrey J. Gaskins, Leslie V. Farland, Dan Zhang, Brenda M. Birmann, Janet W. Rich-Edwards, Yi Xin Wang, Rulla M. Tamimi, Stacey A. Missmer, Jorge E. Chavarro

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Objective: To investigate the association between infertility and the incidence of invasive cancer. Design: Prospective cohort study (1989–2015). Setting: Not applicable. Patient(s): A total of 103,080 women aged 25–42 years in the Nurses’ Health Study II who were cancer-free at baseline (1989). Intervention(s): The infertility status (failure to conceive after 1 year of regular, unprotected sex) and causes of infertility were self-reported at baseline and biennial follow-up questionnaires. Main Outcome Measure(s): Cancer diagnosis was confirmed through medical record review and classified as obesity-related (colorectal, gallbladder, kidney, multiple myeloma, thyroid, pancreatic, esophageal, gastric, liver, endometrial, ovarian, and postmenopausal breast) or non–obesity-related (all other cancers). We fit the Cox proportional-hazards models to estimate the hazard ratios (HRs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) of the association between infertility and cancer incidence. Result(s): During 2,149,385 person-years of follow-up, 26,208 women reported a history of infertility, and we documented 6,925 incident invasive cancer cases. After adjusting for body mass index and other risk factors, women who reported infertility had a higher risk of developing cancer than gravid women without a history of infertility (HR, 1.07; 95% CI, 1.02–1.13). This association was stronger among obesity-related cancers (HR, 1.13; 95% CI, 1.05–1.22; vs. non–obesity-related cancers, HR, 0.98; 95% CI, 0.91–1.06) and, in particular, obesity-related reproductive cancers (postmenopausal breast, endometrial, and ovarian cancers; HR, 1.17; 95% CI, 1.06–1.29) and was stronger among women who first reported infertility earlier in life (≤25 years, HR, 1.19; 95% CI, 1.07–1.33; 26–30 years, HR, 1.11; 95% CI, 0.99–1.25; >30 years, HR, 1.07; 95% CI, 0.94–1.22; P trend < .001). Conclusion(s): A history of infertility may be associated with the risk of developing obesity-related reproductive cancers; further study is needed to elucidate the underlying mechanisms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)134-142
Number of pages9
JournalFertility and Sterility
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 2023


  • Infertility
  • cancer
  • endometrial cancer
  • ovarian cancer
  • postmenopausal breast cancer

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Reproductive Medicine
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology


Dive into the research topics of 'A prospective cohort study of infertility and cancer incidence'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this