BACKGROUND The risk of recurrent oncological disease due to the reintroduction of cancer cells via autotransplantation of cryopreserved ovarian tissue is unknown. METHODS A systematic review of literature derived from MEDLINE, EMBASE and the Cochrane Library was conducted. Studies on follow-up after autotransplantation; detection of cancer cells in ovarian tissue from oncological patients by histology, polymerase chain reaction or xenotransplantation; and epidemiological data on ovarian metastases were included. RESULTS A total of 289 studies were included. Metastases were repeatedly detected in ovarian tissue obtained for cryopreservation purposes from patients with leukaemia, as well as in one patient with Ewing sarcoma. No metastases were detected in ovarian tissue from lymphoma and breast cancer patients who had their ovarian tissue cryopreserved. Clinical studies indicated that one should be concerned about autotransplantation safety in patients with colorectal, gastric and endometrial cancer. For patients with low-stage cervical carcinoma, clinical data were relatively reassuring, but studies focused on the detection of metastases were scarce. Oncological recurrence has been described in one survivor of cervical cancer and one survivor of breast cancer who had their ovarian tissue autotransplanted, although these recurrences may not be related to the transplantation. CONCLUSIONS It is advisable to refrain from ovarian tissue autotransplantation in survivors of leukaemia. With survivors of all other malignancies, current knowledge regarding the safety of autotransplantation should be discussed. The most reassuring data regarding autotransplantation safety were found for lymphoma patients.