What Are the Effects of Cancer on Fertility?

By (embryologist) and (fertility counselor).
Last Update: 12/17/2014

Chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatments can cause damage in the gonads. Doctors need to make this fact known for patients that are going to go through any of these treatments.

Provided below is an index with the 3 points we are going to expand on in this article.

The most important is to value the existing risk of gonad damage and provide an individual option to each and every patient. That’s why contacting the oncologist is always vital.

Fighting cancer

There are several factors that must be taken into account when it comes to valuing chemotherapy and radiotherapy, mainly: the toxicity degree of the treatment and the age of the patient.

Toxicity of the treatment

The possibility of suffering from ovarian failure, due to the different treatments with antineoplastic drugs, i.e. substances that prevent the growth or development of malignant tumour cells, is widely known. Ovarian failure may appear in 15% of treated acute myeloblastic leukaemias, 44% of non-Hodgkin lymphomas, 32% of Hodgkin lymphomas and 50% of breast cancers.


A dose of 20 Gy may cause an irreversible menopause in women younger than 40, whereas a dose of 6Gy may cause it only from 40 on.

Alterations DNA


The different chemotherapy treatments damage the clue and theca cells, and oocytes. There’s a great follicle loss due to the fact that the clue cells main function is the production of sexual steroids, such as luteal hormone, which may maintain a potential pregnancy and causes the production of the thick cervical mucus that prevents the spermatozoa from entering the uterus.

Age of the patient

The older the woman, the greater the gonad damage, due to the apparition of an irreversible amenorrhea after the oncologic treatment. The possibility that a hidden ovarian failure, continuing with the cycles some time after the end of the treatment, takes place must be taken into account.

Even if there are regular cycles, it doesn’t mean that there’s no irreversible damage in the ovarian follicle pool of the woman. Studies that followed the evolution of these patients during certain time have proved that the apparition of premature menopause has a higher incidence in these women than in normal population.

We must work to achieve:

  • Defining the safety and effectiveness of the different treatments.
  • Providing good markers of ovarian functionality and risk of toxicity in the gonads.
  • The development of lab techniques, especially the in vitro follicle development.
  • Creation of committees that include gynaecologists, specialists in assisted reproduction techniques, haematologists, oncologists, psychologists, paediatricians… to improve the attention to these women.
  • Educating and raising awareness among the oncologists when it comes to the preservation of fertility of the patients.

We make a great effort to provide you with the highest quality information.

🙏 Please share this article if you liked it. 💜💜 You help us continue!


 Sara Salgado
Sara Salgado
B.Sc., M.Sc.
Degree in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from the University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU). Master's Degree in Human Assisted Reproduction from the Complutense University of Madrid (UCM). Certificate of University Expert in Genetic Diagnosis Techniques from the University of Valencia (UV). More information about Sara Salgado
Adapted into english by:
 Sandra Fernández
Sandra Fernández
B.A., M.A.
Fertility Counselor
Bachelor of Arts in Translation and Interpreting (English, Spanish, Catalan, German) from the University of Valencia (UV) and Heriot-Watt University, Riccarton Campus (Edinburgh, UK). Postgraduate Course in Legal Translation from the University of Valencia. Specialist in Medical Translation, with several years of experience in the field of Assisted Reproduction. More information about Sandra Fernández

Find the latest news on assisted reproduction in our channels.