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The Link Between Abortion and Breast Cancer

October 2000
By: Joel Brind
What the Public Health Establishment and the Abortion Industry Won't Tell You

Question: "So in other words, a woman who finds herself pregnant at age fifteen will have a higher breast cancer risk if she chooses to abort that pregnancy than if she carries the pregnancy to term, correct?"

Answer: "Probably, yes."

The only thing surprising about this matter-of-fact admission is that it was made by a scientist testifying under oath as a witness for a group of abortionists, for the purpose of making the case against the abortion-breast cancer (ABC) link!

Dr. Lynn Rosenberg of the Boston University School of Medicine could not deny the ABC link within the confinements of cross-examination, which did not allow her to put things in her own words. When such experts do make statements in their own words, they say that a woman who chooses abortion does not get the protective effect of a full-term pregnancy. But such a statement is misleading and does not go far enough to delineate the adverse health effect of elective abortion.

In fact, overwhelming published evidence spanning the last forty years substantiates that the impact is worse. In addition to abrogating a full-term pregnancy's protective effect against breast cancer, abortion adds to a woman's breast cancer risk, leaving it higher than it would have been had she not become pregnant at all.

Why does abortion have any influence over a woman's future risk of contracting breast cancer? Pregnancy not only prepares a baby for birth, but it also prepares the mother's breasts for the role of feeding the baby after birth. Almost immediately after conception, a mother's ovaries begin secreting ever increasing quantities of the hormone estrogen. Estrogen's job is to make the cells in the breasts proliferate so that the breasts will become large enough to feed the baby after birth. It is not until the third trimester, at about thirty-two weeks' gestation, that other hormones make these cells differentiate into milk-producing tissues. If this process is interrupted by abortion (or even a live birth) before differentiation takes place, a woman is left with more cancer-vulnerable cells in her breasts than were there before she got pregnant. This translates into a higher risk of breast cancer later in life.

It is important to note that most pregnancies that end in spontaneous abortion (miscarriage) do so because of inadequate hormonal production by the ovaries. Consequently, there is no substantial overexposure to growth-promoting estrogen and no increase in the risk of breast cancer.

This fact has provided substantial grist for the denial mill of mainstream sources of public health information. For example, according to the American Cancer Society's comprehensive 1997 review of the ABC link, "Definitive conclusions about an association between breast cancer risk and spontaneous or induced abortions are not possible at present." It is only by diluting abortion's effect, through the inclusion of miscarriages, that such an inconclusive assessment of the data be drawn.

The "political incorrectness" of the ABC link has led to even more curious phenomena, such as the National Cancer Institute's (NCI) disparagement of the research it commissioned for the specific purpose of investigating the ABC link. In 1994, Dr. Janet Daling and colleagues at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, Washington, published their results in the NCI's own journal. They reported:

1.a 50% increase in the risk of breast cancer before age 45 among women who had one or more induced abortions; 80% increase in the risk of breast cancer among women who had any abortions and who also had any family history of breast cancer;
3.a more than 100% risk increase among women who had any abortions before age 18 or after age 30; incalculably high risk increase among women who had an abortion before age 18 and who also had any family history of the disease.

Such a clear indictment of abortion as a breast cancer risk factor (especially by a strongly pro-choice research team) could only be published by the NCI along with an editorial which branded the results "far from conclusive" and likely flawed by something called "reporting bias."

This "reporting bias" refers to a hypothetical difference in the veracity of breast cancer patients compared to that of healthy women. The theory is that if breast cancer patients are more likely to admit previous abortions, then abortion will appear to be more common among women who developed breast cancer than among those who didn't and an apparent (but artificial) risk increase will surface in the data. While the possibility of reporting bias is a valid concern, researchers have tested for reporting bias without finding it in ABC research. In fact, Daling, et al., tested for reporting bias rigorously in their study and reported in their paper that they did not find such bias in the data. However, one would never guess that from the editorial. In fact, the only study which claimed to have uncovered direct evidence of reporting bias relied on the preposterous assumption that breast cancer patients in Sweden had over-reported abortions, i.e., claimed to have had abortions that never took place! This conclusion was based on the dubious presumption that the computerized records in Sweden were flawless. This claim of over-reporting of abortions was eventually (and quietly) retracted in 1998 by the World Health Organization research team that had originally made the claim back in 1991.

Of course, no one argues with the fact that, all other things being equal, it is better to rely on medical records established at the time of abortion rather than upon interviewing breast cancer patients many years later. But then, it is most curious that the NCI and others who would use this argument to dismiss all the interview-based studies conveniently omit the fact that the one 1989 American study based on medical records, reported a 90% increase in breast cancer risk with abortion! Instead, they have relied largely on a 1997 Danish study based on the medical records of all 1.5 million women born in Denmark between 1935 and 1978. That study reported: "Induced abortions have no overall effect on the risk of breast cancer." However, it was so seriously flawed as to render its overall results entirely invalid. For just one example, the Danish study utilized medical records of abortions dating back only to 1973, in which year, the study implied, elective abortion was legalized in Denmark. In truth, elective abortion was legalized in Denmark way back in 1939, and 60,000 women in the study who had legal abortions on record, were misclassified as not having had an abortion! Yet, to this day the NCI and other agencies still rely on the Danish study as more or less definitive in showing that, overall, abortion does not raise the breast cancer risk.

But things are finally beginning to change. The court testimony cited at the beginning of this article, for example, was just taken in November of last year. More recently, The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), arguably the most influential medical journal in the world, finally listed abortion as a risk factor for breast cancer in its review of breast cancer risk this past February. The NEJM is the journal which published and championed the Danish study only three years ago. Most recently, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (RCOG), the agency which sets the standards of care for abortion practitioners in the United Kingdom, validated the evidence for the ABC link. Specifically, the March, 2000, edition of RCOG's triennially revised "Evidence-based guideline No. 7: The care of women requesting induced abortion" reviews our own "comprehensive review and meta-analysis" of the worldwide ABC literature, which was published in 1996 in the British Medical Association's Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health. The RCOG guideline restates our summary finding of a significant, overall 30% increased risk of breast cancer with abortion. It also states that our review was "carefully conducted" and comments that "the Brind paper had no major methodological shortcomings and could not be disregarded."

As of this writing, the ABC link has been evidenced by 13 out of 14 epidemiological studies in the U.S. and 27 out of 34 worldwide. The biological basis of the ABC link is well established. It was even demonstrated experimentally in laboratory rats twenty years ago. Even if scientific rigor does not demand that such overwhelming evidence constitutes conclusive proof, medical ethics demand that women considering abortion be informed about the evidence linking this elective surgical procedure to a life-threatening disease.

Joel Brind, Ph.D., is a professor of Biology and Endocrinology of Baruch College of the City University of New York, where he has been teaching since 1986. He has been researching, writing, and teaching extensively about the ABC link since 1992. He founded the Abortion-Breast Cancer Quarterly Update in 1997 and the Breast Cancer Prevention Institute in 1999. He may be contacted by phone or fax at (845) 452-0797 or by e-mail at

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