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A British researcher tomorrow will present data from the UK that shows a connection between abortion and breast cancer in British women.
According to the Coalition on Abortion/Breast Cancer, British researcher Patrick Carroll, director of the Pensions and Population Research Institute in London, will present his findings at the Joint Statistical Meetings at the Minneapolis Convention Center – the largest gathering of statisticians in North America.
Carroll’s research adds to a body of evidence showing women who have had one or more abortions – especially one prior to birthing their first child – are more susceptible to breast cancer.
The Coalition on Abortion/Breast Cancer reports Carroll’s research cites three British breast cancer trends.
The first trend is that upper-class women are the most likely to develop breast cancer and die of the disease. For other cancers, lower social classes experience higher incidence and mortality rates. Abortion before a first birth and delayed first birth among upper class women provide the best explanations for this trend, Carroll says.
The second trend involves regional breast cancer rates of the British Isles. Breast cancer rates are greatest in the southeast (116 per 100,000) where abortion rates are higher than in other regions, whereas breast cancer is lowest in Ireland (97 per 100,000) where abortion is prohibited.
Carroll’s research finds a third trend in the increase in breast cancer between 1971 and 2002. During those years, incidents of the disease rose 70 percent in the UK.
Says the Coalition on Abortion/Breast Cancer:
“Carroll’s research is significant because he used national data reporting breast cancers and abortions. Therefore, it’s free of any possibility of a hypothetical problem called ‘recall bias.’ Opponents of the abortion-cancer link have never provided credible evidence of recall bias. Nevertheless, they argue that research depending on interviews with women to report their abortion histories is flawed because more cancer patients than healthy women accurately report their abortions.”
Evidence pointing to an abortion-breast cancer link, commonly known as the ABC link, is present in 29 of 38 published studies conducted worldwide since 1957. 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.
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.
Those who denounce an ABC link, such as Planned Parenthood, 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.