Recently, the Payson Roundup published a letter in which the writer claims that abortion causes breast cancer. As a health care professional whose clinical practice is limited entirely to Obstetrics and Gynecology, and as a member of the Association of Reproductive Health Professionals, I'd like to respond to this assertion.
In her letter, the writer asserts, "The link between abortion and breast cancer is widely recognized by the medical community, and substantiated by scientific research." Proponents of this idea base their conclusions on a few studies, all of which are old, small-scale and fundamentally flawed.
Current, large-scale studies have completely disproved and debunked the idea that abortion causes breast cancer. Nevertheless, the rumor continues to be propagated. Perhaps the most highly regarded study was reported in 1997 in the New England Journal of Medicine. This study analyzed data from 1.5 million women and concluded that abortion has no impact on overall risk of breast cancer. These findings were replicated in 2001 and reported in the prestigious British medical journal, Lancet Oncology. After a full analysis of all available scientific literature on the subject in 2003, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the National Cancer Institute and the American Cancer Society all refuted any causal link between abortion and subsequent development of breast cancer.
People with controversial ideas often resort to the manipulation of science to prove their point. For example, women who do not bear children, or who have their children later in life, are at slightly increased risk for developing breast cancer. This is supported by medical evidence. If I were to apply faulty logic and flawed reasoning to this proven fact, I could boldly conclude that sexual abstinence causes breast cancer. This would certainly be ludicrous.
Abortion and breast cancer are both tragic. In facing difficult situations related to their health, women are entitled to information that is true, free from deliberate distortion, manipulation, scare tactics, and the taint of a political agenda.
JeanAnn Schwark, MS, FNP-C, Payson