A new initiative has been created to protect the future fertility of children and young people being treated for cancer.

The Irish Cancer Society and the Merrion Fertility Clinic have joined forces to offer children the chance to have their own children in the future.

The Irish Cancer Society has invested €420,000 in the project.

Over 200 children are diagnosed with cancer each year in Ireland, with the necessary treatment often damaging their fertility and impacting their chances of being able to have children themselves in future.

The Merrion Fertility Clinic has welcomed grant funding from the Irish Cancer Society to expand its fertility services for children with cancer and develop a service to freeze the ovaries of pre-pubescent girls.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, the clinic’s clinical director Prof Mary Wingfield said the service is "absolutely delighted" with the funding, which will allow it over three years to develop a national fertility preservation or freezing service.

She said the news "really gives hope to children with cancer and their families".

The service will continue to assist boys who are past puberty to freeze sperm.

It will also allow it to fund cases of freezing eggs for girls who have reached puberty, which is more complicated and costly.

Prof Wingfield said it plans to set up a new clinic for adolescents and young people who have previously had cancer treatment and did not have the chance to freeze eggs or sperm prior to their treatment.

It will provide a full fertility assessment for young people, including many girls who are concerned about their fertility for the future.

She said that some people's fertility is not affected by chemotherapy.

Others have reduced fertility as chemotherapy can damage ovaries and result in some young women developing early menopause in their late 20s.

She said the hope is "we can catch some of these young women between 17 and 24 and give them opportunity to freeze eggs" at that stage before they enter early menopause.

For the first time the clinic is planning to put in place a service for younger girls who have not yet reached puberty and where freezing ovarian tissue is the only option available to preserve fertility.

This requires the provision of a high quality laboratory and storage facility.

The Merrion Clinic wants to begin to set that up in Ireland over the next three years and may have an interim arrangement to transport ovarian tissue to the UK.

Prof Wingfield said this service is hugely needed in Ireland, which is one of the few countries in Europe that does not offer it.