About 17 percent of women with unexplained infertility also have genetic variations known to cause diseases, including cancer, a new study finds.
A link between infertility and certain diseases has been established; both men and women with infertility have an increased risk of heart disease and cancer.
What wasn’t determined before was whether a genetic disorder could lead to a predisposition to infertility — until now.
“Our findings support a genetic link between infertility and future medical disorders,” studypublished in the New England Journal of Medicine, said.
In this case, “future medical disease” refers to a disease caused by a genetic mutation.
Researchers at the Medical College of Georgia in the US found that 6.6 percent of the women they studied had what they called “medically actionable” variants in 59 genes.
This means they may contribute to diseases such as cancer or heart disease, and certain lifestyle or medical interventions may reduce their risk.
By comparison, 2 to 2.5 percent of people in the general population have variants in these genes.
The other 10 percent of infertile women they studied had gene variants known to cause diseases such as Parkinson’s, for which little was done to reduce their risk of Parkinson’s.
The researchers sequenced the genes of 197 women aged 18 to 40 with unexplained infertility to look for genetic variants known or suspected to cause the disease.
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The study states that infertility affects 10 to 15 percent of people in the United States. In the UK, an estimated 15% of heterosexual couples are affected by infertility.
In about 30% of cases, the cause of infertility is unknown.
The two most common genetic variants identified in the study were those that lead to heart disease and cancer.
The researchers say they currently do not recommend genetic testing for women with unexplained infertility, but if further research supports these findings, genetic testing may need to be considered in the future.