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Fertility drugs and incidence of thyroid cancer in a Danish nationwide cohort of 146 024 infertile women

Publikation: Bidrag til tidsskriftTidsskriftartikelForskningpeer review


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  • Sofie Lindquist
  • Susanne K Kjær
  • Vanna Albieri
  • Kirsten Frederiksen
  • Tatiana Hansen
  • Bugge Nøhr
  • Allan Jensen
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STUDY QUESTION: Do fertility drugs increase the risk of thyroid cancer among infertile women?

SUMMARY ANSWER: The use of most types of fertility drugs was not associated with an increased risk of thyroid cancer.

WHAT IS KNOWN ALREADY: The incidence of thyroid cancer is higher for women than men, especially during reproductive years, indicating that reproductive hormones may be involved in the development of thyroid cancer. Only a few previous studies have examined the association between the use of fertility drugs and incidence of thyroid cancer and the results are inconclusive.

STUDY DESIGN, SIZE, DURATION: A retrospective, population-based cohort study including all 146 024 infertile women aged 20-45 years and living in Denmark in the period 1995-2017. The women were followed from the date of entry in the cohort (i.e. date of first infertility diagnosis) until the occurrence of thyroid cancer or any other cancer (except non-melanoma skin cancer), death, emigration, total thyroidectomy or the end of follow-up (31 December 2018), whichever occurred first. The median length of follow-up was 11.3 years.

PARTICIPANTS/MATERIALS, SETTING, METHODS: In total, 167 women were diagnosed with thyroid cancer during the follow-up period. Information on the use of specific fertility drugs (clomiphene citrate, gonadotropins, hCGs, GnRH receptor modulators and progesterone), thyroid cancer, covariates and vital status was obtained from the Danish Infertility Cohort and various Danish national registers. Cox proportional hazard regression models were used to calculate hazard ratios (HRs) and 95% CIs for thyroid cancer overall and for papillary thyroid cancer.

MAIN RESULTS AND THE ROLE OF CHANCE: After adjustment for the calendar year of infertility diagnosis, the highest obtained level of education, parity status, obesity or thyroid disease and mutual adjustment for other registered fertility drugs, no marked associations were observed between the use of clomiphene citrate, hCG, gonadotropins or GnRH receptor modulators and risk of overall or papillary thyroid cancer. However, ever use of progesterone was associated with an increased rate of both overall (HR 1.63; 95% CI 1.07-2.48) and papillary (HR 1.66, 95% CI 1.04-2.65) thyroid cancer after mutual adjustment for other specific fertility drugs. For most specific fertility drugs, we observed a tendency toward higher associations with thyroid cancer within the first 5 years after the start of drug use than after 5 years from the start of use. No marked associations were detected according to the cumulative dose for any of the specific fertility drugs.

LIMITATIONS, REASONS FOR CAUTION: Despite a large study population, the statistical precision in some subgroup analyses may be affected due to the low number of thyroid cancer cases. Although we were able to adjust for a number of potential confounders, residual and unmeasured confounding may potentially have affected the observed associations, as we could not adjust for some factors that may influence the association between fertility drugs and thyroid cancer, including age at menarche and BMI.

WIDER IMPLICATIONS OF THE FINDINGS: Although this study, which is the largest to date, provides reassuring evidence that there is no strong link between the use of fertility drugs and thyroid cancer incidence, we observed a modest increased thyroid cancer incidence after the use of progesterone. However, we cannot rule out that this is a chance finding and the potential association between the use of progesterone and thyroid cancer should therefore be investigated further in large epidemiological studies. The results of the present study provide valuable knowledge for clinicians and other health care personnel involved in the diagnosis and treatment of infertility.

STUDY FUNDING/COMPETING INTEREST(S): The study was supported by research grants from the Jascha Foundation and the Aase and Ejner Danielsens Foundation. B.N. received honoraria and/or non-financial support by Gedeon Richter Nordics AB, IBSA Nordic APS and Merck KGAA. The remaining authors have no competing interests.


TidsskriftHuman reproduction (Oxford, England)
Udgave nummer4
Sider (fra-til)838-847
Antal sider10
StatusUdgivet - 1 apr. 2022

Bibliografisk note

© The Author(s) 2022. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology. All rights reserved. For permissions, please email:

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