Antineoplastic (Chemotherapy) Drugs – Reproductive Health

Working with antineoplastic drugs during pregnancy could increase your chances of miscarriage or birth defects. Learn more about working with antineoplastic drugs and reducing your exposure.

What are antineoplastic drugs?

  • Antineoplastic drugs are medications used to treat cancer. Other names for antineoplastic drugs are anticancer, chemotherapy, chemo, cytotoxic, or hazardous drugs.
  • These drugs come in many forms, including liquids or pills.

Why should I worry about exposure?

  • Cancer patients who are taking antineoplastic drugs have an increased risk of infertility. Treatment during pregnancy may increase the risk of miscarriage or birth defects.
  • People who work with these drugs may have an increased risk of miscarriage or birth defects.
  • Antineoplastic drugs work by targeting and killing rapidly dividing cancerous cells. They can also be harmful to healthy dividing cells, including the cells of a developing baby.

Who works with antineoplastic drugs?

  • Pharmacists or pharmacy technicians who prepare antineoplastic drugs.
  • Nurses who prepare and/or administer the drugs.
  • Doctors and operating room workers who treat patients who have antineoplastic drugs in their bodies.
  • Shipping and receiving, custodial, and laundry staff may have contact with these drugs.
  • Animal care workers who come into contact with animals who are taking these drugs.

What is not known?

  • We don’t know what causes most miscarriages or birth defects. We often can’t tell if working with antineoplastic drugs caused miscarriages or birth defects.
  • We don’t know what levels of antineoplastic drugs are safe. Try to reduce or eliminate your exposure as much as possible.

What can I do to reduce or eliminate exposure?

Where can I get more information?