New figures show 17 British sperm donors have fathered over 500 kids between them. The astounding numbers have led to concerns that men could be spreading defective DNA to dozens of young kids unknowingly since currently donors aren't screened for faulty genes including those that cause cancer.
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It also raises concerns that siblings could meet and form relationships who have no idea they are actually related which would also lead to birth complications and defects. There are 18,000 children who have been born and have at least nine other half-brothers or sisters but only 163 of those have registered on the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) Donor Sibling Link.
The newest figures from the HFEA show that 17 men had fathered at least 30 babies each since 1991. Another 104 men fathered between 20 and 29 babies, and 1557 more fathered between 10 and 19, while more than 6,000 have fathered nine babies or less. Marie-Claire Platt, Head of Campaigns at Ovarian Cancer Action said, "Without proper screening for hereditary cancer gene mutations, donors could unknowingly pass on an inherited risk of ovarian, breast, bowel and other cancers. This is particularly worrying for couples who are trying for a baby who might not be aware of the implications for their sons or daughters in the future."
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">17 men (as sperm donors) have reportedly fathered about 500 kids in the <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/UK?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#UK</a>. Hmm… 🧐🤔 I guess <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/British?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#British</a> folks should do a <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/DNA?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#DNA</a> test to ensure they ain’t getting married or having kids with siblings? 🤷🏿♂️🚶🏿♂️🚶🏿♂️🚶🏿♂️ <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/FirstWorldProblems?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#FirstWorldProblems</a></p>— Yusuf IBRAHEEM (@AfobajeII) <a href="https://twitter.com/AfobajeII/status/993275330034102273?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">May 6, 2018</a></blockquote>
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Platt pleaded with lawmakers for new legislation saying, "We urge the regulators to take action and include hereditary cancer gene mutation screening in the process of sperm and egg donation." Current HFEA rules prevent donors from being allowed to create more than 10 families, even then it means many of the offspring will live with their half-siblings.
Geoff Trew, Clinical director of Britain's largest IVF providers, The Fertility Partnership said he believes enhanced screening would soon be ushered into the list of requirements for sperm donors in the UK. "This does bring up an interesting issue about how much we should be screening donors. Perhaps we should be doing a bit more," Trew said. "I think over the next year we will start to see clinics bringing in enhanced screening. It could highlight if there was a very big risk of passing on a defective gene, such as it both parents had it. The interaction between the genes is important."
However Allan Pacey, Professor of Andrology at The University of Sheffield argues that no one is perfect and more screening could lead to a shortage. "There isn’t such a thing as a perfect donor," he said. "Everyone has a defective something, and if we are going to start screening everything out you may get to a point where we have no sperm donors left at all."
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