A cancer drug used in chemotherapy to treat pregnant women can have an effect on the fertility of unborn daughters, a study involving mice has revealed. Researchers from the University of Edinburgh discovered that the drug, called etoposide, can cause damage to the development of ovaries of mice tissue under a laboratory setting.
"The drug affects the germ cells in the ovaries, which are the cells that give rise to eggs. This is important because it could mean that the fertility of the offspring could be affected in later life," said corresponding author Norah Spears, as per a news release in EurekAlert. Spears said that if their findings are replicated in humans, it might mean early menopause for future daughters of the cancer patient.
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Science Daily reported that around one in every 1000 pregnant women is diagnosed with cancer. The cancer drug etoposide is considered safe to be treated in pregnant women who are in their second and third trimester because it carries a low risk of causing miscarriage and birth defects. Despite this, there is not much information regarding the effects of etoposide to the baby as it grows older.
According to the report, the reproductive life span of a woman has already been determined in the womb even before she was born. In her second and third trimester of pregnancy, the woman's germ cells forms follicles which will set the limit on the number of eggs she will be releasing in her reproductive life span.
The Telegraph quoted Spears as saying that their study is the first to explore the effect of taking chemotherapy drugs during pregnancy on the long-term basis. Spears said previous research has only looked into the immediate effects of chemotherapy drugs in the offspring of cancer patients. Their findings were published in the journal BMC Cancer.
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