Breast Cancer Claim Not Supported By Evidence


As do many people, I have deeply held feelings about the issue of abortion. And while I can respectfully disagree with some pro-life notions, I take issue with the assertion that one of the consequences of abortion is an "increased risk of breast cancer." This statement is not only designed to play on the worst fear of women, but more disturbing is that it is factually incorrect.

I look around the Roundup office and I know statistics say that at least three of my co-workers will develop breast cancer and of those, at least one will die of the disease. In the back of our minds looms the ever-present threat of breast cancer. Will we become a casualty of environmental pollution? Poor diet? Perhaps our genetic makeup?

While there seems to be some relationship between hormones and breast cancer, more than 80 studies have been done worldwide that have collected data about breast cancer and reproductive factors such as childbirth, birth control pills and abortion. In the process of analyzing this data, no correlation has been found to show that breast cancer is linked to abortion.

Thirty studies have examined the risk of developing breast cancer for women who have had abortions. Researchers at the National Cancer Institute, the American Cancer Society, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the World Health Organization, and major universities say that the most reliable studies show no increased risk.

One of the most highly regarded studies on abortion and breast cancer was published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1997. This study of 1.5 million women found no connection between abortion and an increased risk of breast cancer.

Another large study done in Sweden followed 50,000 women for 20 years who had received abortions under the age of 30. Not only did the study show no indication of an overall risk of breast cancer after an induced abortion in the first trimester, but it also suggested that there could well be a slightly reduced risk.

On a gut level, I am deeply disturbed that some pro-life advocates would further their anti-choice agendas by playing on women's fears.

Have they ever thought about the young woman who hears this bit of misinformation and lives in fear for the next few decades because she terminated a pregnancy when she was 15? Life is hard and frightening enough for young women without adding to their anxiety by bombarding them with the terrible fate that awaits them if they choose to control their own reproduction.

It hurts the pro-life cause to use scare tactics that are based on some obscure, flawed medical study and ignore the findings of the legitimate, scientifically sound, highly regarded health institutes.

Yes, people are highly emotional when it comes to the issue of abortion, but it is important to refrain from misinformation -- especially when it comes to something like a disease that, statistically, will eventually take away someone very dear to us.

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