Having an abortion raises a woman’s risk of breast cancer by at least 30 percent, and is fueling an “epidemic” of the often fatal disease, according to British researchers.
According to a new study published in the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons, young women who had an abortion before having a child are at the greatest risk for developing breast cancer.
The study’s lead author Patrick Carroll calls abortion the single “best predictor” of breast cancer trends.
“An abortion in a young woman who has never had a child has a carcinogenic effect because it leaves breast cells in a state of interrupted hormonal development in which they are more susceptible,” says Carroll, director of research at PAPRI (Pension and Population Research Institute) in London.
The study adds fuel to the already fiery debate between abortion-rights advocates who believe the option to terminate a pregnancy is a basic right, and abortion foes who believe the procedure is morally and ethically wrong.
Abortion-rights proponents argue Carroll’s findings are weak and deny there is a connection between the rise in breast cancer and an increase in abortions.
“This is an issue that opponents of [abortion] have been publicizing and making claims about for at least twenty years,” said Dr. Michael Thun, spokesperson for the American Cancer Society.
“This is an epidemiological study and is considered weak because it has no information on individual behavior, just national behavior,” he tells Newsmax.
For years, medical professionals have agreed that hormonal influences, including the use of hormone replacement therapy (HRT), have an effect on the development of breast cancer. But debate has raged over whether the hormonal changes caused by an abortion performed in a woman’s youth can affect her chances of developing cancer many years later.
Jane Orient, M.D., executive director of the Association of Physicians and Surgeons, Inc. and managing editor of the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons agrees with Carroll’s findings.
“It makes a lot of biologic sense,” she tells Newsmax.
Carroll believes that abortions in many countries, including the U.S., tend to be underreported, so past studies examining the link between abortion and breast cancer may have inherent flaws.
In the past, developing reliable statistics has been difficult because of the illegality of abortion and because of the long lag time between the abortion – usually undergone before a woman reaches the age of thirty – and the development of breast cancer, which is most common in women over the age of sixty.
Carroll studied data from eight European countries that are believed to have extremely accurate, official abortion counts: England and Wales; Scotland; Northern Ireland; the Irish Republic; Sweden; the Czech Republic; Finland; and Denmark. He also used those countries’ national cancer registration data for female breast cancer.
Carroll’s predictions are huge and they are dire. He predicts that the incidence of breast cancer in England and Wales will increase by 51 percent by 2025 with abortion being the biggest risk factor.
Even more frightening is the fact that his past predictions, using the same type of data, have been extremely accurate. Using figures from 1997, Carroll predicted 100.5 percent of the cancers observed in the United Kingdom in 2003 and 97.5 percent of all cancers observed in 2004.
Carroll found that Ireland, which has the lowest breast cancer rates in the British Isles, also has the lowest abortion rates. The lower breast cancer rate couldn’t be explained solely by the fact that Irish women were protected by the fact they had more children because southeast England had more cases of breast cancer than average, even though their birth rates were the same as in the rest of the country.
One puzzling fact is that women from upper social classes and more highly paid women have higher rates of breast cancer. “Studies show that the more highly paid women get more breast cancer,” Carroll says. “It’s unexplained.”
Four countries whose statistics were studied by Carroll had already studied the connection between higher earnings and an increase in breast cancer.
“None could explain it without acknowledging abortion,” he says.
In all other cancers, lower classes of women have higher risks of developing cancer. But breast cancer alone is more common in upper class women and those with higher paying jobs. “This is the same group of women who have a greater preference for abortion when pregnant,” Carroll says.
Dr. Orient believes Carroll’s research is very powerful because he is an actuary and outside of the abortion controversy.
“He’s just looking at the math,” she says. “He’s just looking at the cold figures, and his livelihood depends on making accurate predictions of risk. He just wants to know what the risks are so the insurance industry can price their policies appropriately.
“Some doctors will ignore this study because it doesn’t link a particular woman with breast cancer,” she adds. “It’s an ecological study. But so is a lot of epidemiological evidence.
“Correlation doesn’t prove causality, but if you’ve got correlation over such a long period of time, and the correlation is that strong, and you have a plausible biological mechanism, it’s strong evidence. While it isn’t definite proof, it sure calls for an explanation. If abortion doesn’t explain it, then what does?”
Carroll says he’s merely doing his job as an actuary and has no political ax to grind in the debate.
“Actuaries have to anticipate trends,” he tells Newsmax. “If there’s more breast cancer in the pipeline, you need to know so you can anticipate the rates you need to charge for insurance in the future.
“Rightly or wrongly, we’ve had abortion for the past forty years, and now the time has come to look at the results,” says Carroll.
Dr. Orient is afraid that Carroll’s findings will be ignored by the major voices in the medical community. “I think this evidence will be swept aside by many because I don’t think a lot of doctors want to confront it,” she says.
“A majority of doctors are complicit in abortion – either they have referred a patient, or they have not spoken out against it, or they’ve failed to inform their patient of the risks,” she says. “They probably fear they could be held liable if it turns out that abortion is a strong risk factor for breast cancer.
“Doctors know that many of their patients who have abortions really don’t want to do it, but are looking at the immediate problem that’s disrupting their lives,” she adds. “It’s not right to deprive a patient of the information she might find important. Most women really want to know.”
Only three states — Texas, Minnesota and Mississippi — require doctors to tell women the possible link to breast cancer. Kansas, while not mandating that abortion providers inform their patients of the connection, provides information through their state publications and website.
“You certainly can’t say that abortion directly causes breast cancer, but it certainly increases the risk,” says Dr. Orient. “But if it increases the risk by 30 percent, that’s a lot for such a common disease.
The ACS’ Thun, however, believes at least some of the increase in breast cancer can be attributed to rising rates of obesity, not abortion.
“Post-menopausal obesity has been on the rise in the U.K. as well as in North America,” he says. “The main source of estrogen after menopause is fat tissue.” There’s a clear relationship, he says, between [Body Mass Index] and estradiol, the most potent from of estrogen produced by the body after menopause, and breast cancer.”
While both Orient and Carroll agree that obesity may contribute to the general rise in breast cancer, they disagree with Thun’s conclusion. They point out that the increase in breast cancer was higher in upper class women and those with higher incomes.
These women tend to be more body-conscious and watch their weight. Therefore, as a group, upper class women wouldn’t have higher amounts of body fat producing estrogen that could account for their higher rates of breast cancer.
Dr. Thun is adamant there is no connection between rising rates of breast cancer and an increase in abortion.
“A thorough review by the advisory committee of the National Cancer Institute concluded there was no evidence linking induced abortion to breast cancer,” says Dr. Thun. “This study provides no evidence to challenge that conclusion.”
Dr. Orient disagrees.
“Women need to know that the incidence of breast cancer is rising and it is paralleling the rise in induced abortion. The graphs are very, very clear. There are many strong reasons to believe abortion is a factor.”
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