While tens of thousands of anti-abortion activists converged on the National Mall yesterday to mourn the 30th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade abortion decision, one women’s group finds hope in its three-year battle to raise awareness about the association between abortion and breast cancer.
The Coalition on Abortion/Breast Cancer applauds the recommendations made by the authors of a recent study examining a variety of physical and psychological consequences associated with abortion.
Dr. John M. Thorpe, an epidemiologist at the University of North Carolina’s School of Public Health, and his colleagues called for physicians to inform women about increased breast cancer risk associated with induced abortion and about the existence of research examining abortion as an independent risk factor for breast cancer.
“A young woman with an unintended pregnancy clearly sacrifices the protective effect of a term delivery should she decide to abort and delay childbearing,” wrote the authors. “Thus, we conclude that informed consent before induced abortion should include information about the subsequent risk of preterm delivery and depression.”
The study was published in the current issue of Obstetrical & Gynecological Survey and is offered as a CME review, which means that physicians can receive course credit for studying the paper.
WorldNetDaily has reported on the risk cited by Thorpe and his colleagues, known as the “protective effect” of full-term pregnancy: The sooner a woman has her first child, the lower her risk of developing breast cancer.
Karen Malec, the coalition’s president, said the public admission of a truth she has been struggling to promote for years, was a long time in coming.
“We are pleased that, after nearly a half century, doctors are finally being encouraged to inform women about the existence of ongoing research exploring an independent link between abortion
and breast cancer,” said Malec. “However, women also have the right to know that there is overwhelming biological and epidemiological evidence supporting an independent relationship between abortion and the disease.”
Malec faults the study for concluding, “it remains uncertain whether elective abortion increases subsequent breast cancer.”
She cites overwhelming evidence supporting an abortion-breast cancer link, commonly known as the ABC link, in the 29 of 38 published studies conducted worldwide since 1957 that show a positive association between the two. Seventeen of the 29 are statistically significant, which means there’s a 95
percent certainty that the association is not by chance.
In 1996 Dr. Joel Brind, a professor of biology and endocrinology at Baruch College of the City University of New York and perhaps the most well-known ABC link researcher, conducted a meta-analysis and review of all the studies done in the previous decade and found a 30 percent increased risk of breast cancer for women choosing an abortion after a first full-term pregnancy and a 50 percent risk increase for women choosing an abortion before a first full-term pregnancy.
Thorpe and his colleagues note they did not examine the full breadth of research done on the subject. Rather, they relied on the review articles to draw their conclusions, including Brind’s
These review articles cite a 1997 study by Danish epidemiologist Mads Melbye who found no overall effect of abortion on the risk of breast cancer.
Brind is heavily critical of the Melbye study, describing it as being fraught with “flagrant flaws that violate basic scientific laws.” He cites “invalid methodology” and “misclassification of data” among the study’s problems. In terms of the methodology, Melbey started logging breast cancers in 1968, but didn’t start logging abortions until 1973 – even though abortion was legalized in Denmark in 1939. This caused
there to be more than 300 breast cancer cases that could not have been matched with incidents of induced abortion.
Melbye’s conclusions did include the reference to the “protective effect” risk by reporting, “[w]ith each one-week increase in the gestational age of the fetus … there was a 3 percent increase in the risk of breast cancer.”
The basic biology underlying the ABC link boils down to the fact that breast cancer is linked to reproductive hormones, particularly estrogen. At conception, a woman’s estrogen levels increase hundreds of times above normal – 2,000 percent by the end of the first trimester. That hormone surge
leads to the growth of “undifferentiated” cells in the breast as the body prepares to produce milk for the coming baby.
Undifferentiated cells are vulnerable to the effects of carcinogens, which can give rise to cancerous tumors later in life. In the final weeks of a full-term pregnancy, those cells are “terminally differentiated” through a still largely unknown process and are ready to produce milk. Differentiated cells are not as vulnerable to carcinogens.
However, should a pregnancy be terminated prior to cell differentiation, the woman is left with abnormally high numbers of undifferentiated cells, therefore increasing her risk of developing breast cancer.
Spontaneous abortions, or miscarriages, are not generally associated with increased risk, since
they generally occur due to insufficient estrogen hormones to begin with.
Although this basic biological explanation remains undisputed, establishment cancer organizations and the medical community at large deny or downplay the ABC link.
Those who denounce an ABC link, such as Planned Parenthood, base their position solely on the Melbye study and attack the validity of Brind’s and other researchers’ studies.
“Undaunted by the absence of compelling evidence associating induced abortion with a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer, anti-choice extremists insist on making the connection anyway,” says
Planned Parenthood on its website.
“Once more they are using misinformation as a weapon in their campaign against safe, legal
abortion. In the guise of an ostensible concern for women’s health, these ideologues point to inconclusive, and at times flawed, studies for alleged evidence of a possible association, while ignoring or dismissing overwhelming evidence that induced abortion does not place women at greater risk of
breast cancer,” the statement continues. “Neither the National Cancer Institute [NCI] nor the American
Cancer Society recognizes the reliability of such an association.”
Under pressure from Congress for historically making statements on its website denying the existence of evidence of an ABC link, NCI revised its website in November to include a statement that hints about the protective effect of full-term pregnancy.
NCI states: “The possible relationship between abortion and breast cancer has been examined in over thirty published studies since 1957. Some studies have reported statistically
significant evidence of an increased risk of breast cancer in women who have had abortions, while others have merely suggested an increased risk. Other studies have found no increase in risk among women who had an interrupted pregnancy. NCI is currently supporting mechanistic and population studies to gain a better understanding of the hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy and interrupted pregnancies and how they relate to breast cancer risk.”
“Clearly, it is beneficial to women when their doctors are pro-information,” said Malec. “If physicians inform their patients about the delayed first term pregnancy effect associated with abortion, then perhaps they can help turn around the soaring rates of breast cancer.”
According to a 2001 NCI report on the state of cancer in the United States, the rate of breast cancer jumped more than 40 percent between 1973 and 1998, while the rates for most other cancers declined.
You can read more about the research into the connection between abortion and breast cancer in the January issue of WND’s monthly print magazine, Whistleblower – titled “ABORTION: The 30-Year War.” Subscribe to Whistleblower now, and receive a copy of “Lime 5: Exploited by Choice,” a $19.95 value, FREE. (Free-book offer good for U.S.A. only.)
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