Abortion-Breast Cancer Link

Karen Malec
President of Coalition on Abortion/Breast Cancer
Reproduced with Permission

In an editorial published last week, the New York Times declared that the National Cancer Institute (NCI) has been "bullied by Congressional conservatives into revising its best judgment" on the question of a relationship between abortion and breast cancer.1 It seems that the newspaper's editors and the abortion industry are worried because the agency has taken down its erroneous March 6, 2002 web page which contained a denial that abortion was related to increased risk of breast cancer. An interim page was posted on November 25, 2002. This page is considered a temporary one until the NCI convenes a workshop on the subject. The editors took offense because the agency reported on the latest page that a number of studies published since 1957 found statistically significant risk elevations. Remarkably, they called this honest statement "an egregious distortion of the evidence," but offered no facts to back up their assertion.

Let's examine the evidence. Twenty-nine out of 38 studies report risk elevations. Fifteen studies conducted on American women have explored a relationship between the procedure and breast cancer and 13 have reported risk elevations. Seventeen studies achieved statistical significance, 16 of which report risk elevations. [Reference: www.AbortionBreastCancer.com] The term, "statistical significance," means that scientists are at least 95% certain that the results obtained were not due to chance or error.

Yet, New York Times editors would have this information concealed from women's eyes. Since they've raised the issue of ideology (apparently, a critical concern of theirs), it is worth noting that most of the research has been conducted by abortion supporters.

The evidence of a causal relationship is not only based on a statistical relationship. It is also supported by biological evidence. An animal study in 1980 showed that 77.7% of aborted rats develop breast cancer when exposed to DMBA, a carcinogen. On the other hand, 68% of similarly exposed virgin rats developed breast cancer. None of the rats with full term pregnancies developed the disease. The researchers examined the breast tissue of the rats and found that the rats with full term pregnancies had more "differentiated" or mature breast cells.2 Differentiated cells are known to be mature and cancer-resistant.

A sound biological explanation for a relationship between abortion and the disease has been offered and has never been refuted or challenged by scientists. They know this explanation makes sense, in part, because most risk factors for breast cancer are associated with estrogen overexposure. Chris Kahlenborn, M.D. explained the rationale for this relationship in his book, Breast Cancer: Its Link to Abortion and the Birth Control Pill. He said:

"...if a woman has an induced abortion -- at about the 10th week of pregnancy ... her estrogen, progesterone and HCG levels plummet to baseline levels (i.e, the levels of a woman in the non-pregnant state). These hormones, among others are critical for the full development and maturation of a woman's breast cells, especially in her first pregnancy. Once the levels drop, the process of breast cell differentiation is in a sense "frozen." This state, in which a breast cell has started to divide but has never completed the differentiation process, leaves the cell far more susceptible to becoming cancerous than breast cells which have completed their differentiation. . . If the pregnancy goes to term, her breast cells will have undergone the natural maturation process and be less likely to become cancerous. If the natural process in a woman's first pregnancy is interrupted via an induced abortion, those same cells are left in a vulnerable state."3

The New York Times editorial complained that, until recently, the NCI "found no association between abortion and breast cancer" and that the American Cancer Society (ACS) agreed. Truth is, the NCI, the ACS, and other cancer organizations have been publicly accused of scientific misconduct.5,6,7,8,9,10 Until they identify abortion as a risk factor for the disease, they will continue to be guilty of scientific misconduct.

The National Physicians Center for Family Resources cites breast cancer as a "long term complication of abortion."11 Officials from five other medical groups recognize the ABC research, so this isn't "junk" science conducted by researchers with a political agenda, as some have falsely asserted.12

The United Kingdom's Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (RCOG) reviewed a 1996 review and and meta-analysis of the worldwide research by Brind et al. and said it was methodologically sound. Brind and his colleagues at Penn State found an increased risk of 30% for women procuring an abortion after first full term pregnancy (FFTP) and a 50% increased risk for women obtaining an abortion before FFTP.13 The RCOG said the ABC research "could not be disregarded."14

The editors predicted dire consequences for the federal agency if its bureaucrats can't "summon the courage" to do what the bullies at the New York Times want it to do -- declare that abortion is not related to the disease. The NCI paid, at least partially, for most of the 15 American studies. Yet, the newspaper's readers are expected to believe that the scientists chosen by the agency to receive taxpayer money for their research don't really practice science. Don't the editors find it incongruous that the agency hasn't accepted the findings of the scientists it selected?

Unfortunately, the NCI's credibility has already suffered considerable damage. For reasons that might never be known, women were not told when abortion was legalized in 1973 that two Japanese studies, published in 1957 and 1968 before the existence of "anti-life" groups, had already implicated abortion as a risk factor. The first study, Segi et al., reported a statistically significant 160% risk increase.15The second showed an overal risk of 1.51.16

Nor were women told about a landmark World Health Organization study by MacMahon et al. 1970. Their findings caused all medical experts to acknowledge that the earlier a woman has a first full term pregnancy (FFTP), the lower her risk is for the disease. These researchers also suggested that abortion might be independently linked to breast cancer. In other words, in addition to the delayed first pregnancy effect, the procedure leaves a woman with more cancer vulnerable cells in her breasts than what she had before she became pregnant.17

The concealment of this health information is highly irregular in light of two facts: 1) Breast cancer rates have escalated dramatically since abortion was legalized (Lifetime risk for Americans surged from 1 in 12 women in 1973 to 1 in 8 in 199818); and 2) Abortion has become the most common elective surgical procedure in the U.S. It is irregular because early FFTP, increased childbearing and increased lifetime duration of breastfeeding have been recognized as the most effective means of risk reduction; and childlessness is an acknowledged risk factor.[17], 19 It's unorthodox because scientists have been clearly worried for almost a half a century that abortion is related to breast cancer. If they weren't, they wouldn't have bothered to conduct at least 38 epidemiological studies. Why didn't they tell women?

If the editors at the New York Times and scientists at the NCI and the ACS were intellectually honest, they would have long ago acknowledged abortion's undeniable role in escalating breast cancer rates. If our daughters' lives mattered, they would have uttered the fearsome words, "Abortion causes breast cancer," at least when discussing acknowledged risk factors associated with childlessness and decreased childbearing. Their failure to do so underscores their bias and their political fears.

If this had involved any other risk factor for breast cancer, then accusations of scientific misconduct against the nation's top cancer agency made by six medical experts (independently of one another) would have caused antennae to shoot up in the nation's newsrooms long ago. What evidence is there that the Fourth Estate is troubled in the least if tens of thousands of women ultimately develop breast cancer as a result of their abortions?

Even a non-scientist with a modest education can read the graph, Figure 3, in the study, Howe et al. 2001, which was published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.[18] It is a report to the nation on the status of cancer for the years 1973 to 1998 authored by researchers at the NCI, the ACS, the Centers for Disease Control and the North American Association of Central Cancer Registries. It clearly shows that, since 1987, the increasing incidence of breast cancer (of more than 40%) has been experienced exclusively by the younger group of women ages 50-64 (not in the two older groups ages 65-74 and 75 and up). These women are just young enough to have had legal abortions. This is the Roe v. Wade generation.

The New York Times and its allies haven't offered an explanation for this disparity among the age groups yet. Nor have they explained how breast cancer suddenly metamorphosed into a young woman's disease between 1973 and 1987. Do they care?

The increased numbers of breast cancer patients agrees with that which was predicted by the meta-analysis by Brind et al. They predicted an additional 5,000 cases of breast cancer per year which would increase annually by an another 500 cases. Therefore, for the year 2036, there would be roughly 25,000 additional cases of breast cancer due to abortion.

Table 1 of Howe et al. reveals a trend for increasing incidence during the years 1987 to 1998 (0.5% APC or annual percent change for all females). In 1987, there were roughly 160,000 breast cancer patients.20 Multiply the APC times 160,000. This results in an additional 800 cases per year. Since Brind et al. addressed only the independent link and not the first way that abortion causes breast cancer (delayed FFTP), their estimate of an increasing trend of 500 cases annually was on target.

The supposed "watchdogs of government" have been informed that the NCI was accused of posting out-and-out lies about the research on its web pages.21,22,23,24,25 It wouldn't take Watergate-level investigative skills for journalistic sleuths to confirm the inaccuracy of the NCI's statements. If the non-scientists at the New York Times had been even mildly curious, it would have been a simple matter for them to compare the NCI's statements with the actual findings.

For instance, one of the agency's lies was posted on its web page in 1999. It said, "The scientific rationale for an association between abortion and breast cancer is based on limited experimental data in rats and is not consistent with human data." On the contrary, by 1999, more than two dozen studies had associated abortion with breast cancer. Didn't the editors find that troubling?

A more recent lie appeared on the NCI's March 6, 2002 web page. It said, "Most of the early studies necessarily relied on self-reports of induced abortion, which have been shown to differ between breast cancer patients and other women." The study, Tang et al. 2000, was referenced. However, a simple check of the study's abstract completely contradicts that finding. The study said, "The authors data do not suggest that controls are more reluctant to report a history of induced abortion than are women with breast cancer."26 Yet, the New York Times and a group of Congressmen led by Henry Waxman want that web page re-posted.[23]

The New York Times (and other publications such as, the San Francisco Chronicle27, the Los Angeles Times28, the Boston Globe29 Redbook30 Self Magazine31 Chicago Sun Times32 and even the Australian newspaper, the Herald Sun33) have clearly embarked on a campaign to disinform the public. Science isn't on their side, so they've appealed to emotions by discussing ideology. They've pejoratively labeled volunteers who educate the public about this lifesaving research as "abortion foes" or "anti-abortion," as if ideology had any relevance at all to scientific research. They would have their readers believe that the peer reviewed research is an ideological issue, not a women's health issue. In other words, like the wizard in the Wizard of Oz, they don't want Dorothy to draw back that curtain to see what is behind it. It suggests that the writers themselves might be too emotionally invested to be able to write about the issue in an unbiased way.

Women's lives are secondary. Clinton's campaign staff in 1992 had signs to remind them what the real issue was in the campaign. The signs said, "It's the economy, stupid!" Perhaps the nation's newsrooms need a similar sign to remind them that it's a women's health issue.

The news elite has offered a free public relations service to the abortion industry for the last 30 years. Similarly, the agency, Hill & Knowlton, once offered p.r. to the tobacco industry. Their strategy for dealing with critics of the tobacco industry bears a remarkable resemblance to the strategy used by the abortion industry and its journalistic allies when dealing with the industry's critics. Former Food and Drug Administration director, David Kessler, authored a book entitled, A Question of Intent, in which he discussed that strategy. He said:

"Hill and Knowlton viewed its tobacco industry clients as remarkably unsophisticated about how the new scientific findings would change their world. Few in the industry knew much about lung cancer, and most still believed they would be able to respond to the charges with familiar techniques; small distortions of scientific facts and the strategic use of selected research and favorable quotes were techniques specifically mentioned.
"But the firm recognized that its client was in danger and outlined four strategies for dealing with scientific critics: 'a) smearing and belittling them; b) trying to overwhelm them with mass publication of the opposed viewpoints of other specialties; c) debating them in the public arena; or d) we can determine to raise the issue far above them, so they are hardly even mentioned; and then we can make our real case.' In the end, each of these tactics was employed."34

We should expect a higher standard of ethics from our nation's news elite. Journalists have a grave responsibility to their readers to tell the truth, particularly where the public good is concerned. Post-abortive women would benefit from the dissemination of accurate information about the risks. It would encourage them to undertake risk reduction measures, seek early detection, and join clinical trials assessing the effectiveness of risk reduction drugs.

Society would benefit from giving the information to abortion-bound teenagers. They represent the nation's future. Their parents would want to have this lifesaving information in order to protect their children's health. The study, Daling et al. 1994, showed that teenagers procuring abortions before age 18 elevate their risk 150%. They reported a relative risk of infinity for women with a family history of the disease who procured abortions before age 18.35 It is in society's best interest to protect these women, if not for altruistic reasons, then for financial ones.

Cancer causes its victims horrific physical and emotional suffering. Treatment for the disease can involve lethargy, hair loss, nausea, vomiting, disfiguring surgery, and sometimes even humiliation. Children are losing their middle-aged mothers to this terrible disease. Parents are watching their 30-something daughters die prematurely. Don't these journalists and cancer organizations care? It appears as if they're prepared to push women down their slippery slope.


1 "Abortion and Breast Cancer," Editorial, New York Times, January 6, 2003. [Back]

2 Russo J, Russo IH. Susceptibility of the mammary gland to carcinogenesis.. Am J Pathol (1980) 100(2):497-512. [Back]

3 Kahlenborn C. Breast Cancer: Its Link to Abortion and the Birth Control Pill. One More Soul (2000) p. 85-86. [Back]

5 Karen Malec, "October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month," RFM News, October 22, 2002; http://abortionbreastcancer.com/newsletter102202.htm. [Back]

6 "National Breast Cancer Coalition chided for politicizing abortion-breast cancer research; Attempts to intimidate U.S. Rep. Hostettler;" Coalition on Abortion/Breast Cancer, Press Release; August 21, 2002; http://abortionbreastcancer.com/press_releases.htm. [Back]

7 Joel Brind, Ph.D., "Latest web page from the National Cancer Institute: A well cooked bowl of factoids," RFM News, March 23, 2002; http://abortionbreastcancer.com/Public_Policy.htm. [Back]

8 "National Cancer Institute pulls inaccurate web page repudiating abortion-breast cancer link," Coalition on Abortion/Breast Cancer, Press Release, July 2, 2002; http://abortionbreastcancer.com/press_releases.htm. [Back]

9 Joel Brind, Ph.D., "NCI's new ABC "facts": Fewer lies: U.S. National Cancer lnstitute Changes Website Under Congressional Pressure," AbortionBreast Cancer Quarterly; Fall, 1999; http://abortionbreastcancer.com/article_once.htm. [Back]

10 Visit the web page for the Coalition on Abortion/Breast Cancer discussing research conducted by a team of American Cancer Society researchers, Wingo et al. 1997. http://abortionbreastcancer.com/american_cancer_society.htm. [Back]

11 "Prescriptions for parents: A physicians' guide to adolescence and sex," CD, National Physicians Center for Family Resources, Birmingham, AL; released 9/02. [Back]

12 Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the Catholic Medical Association, the Breast Cancer Prevention Institute, and the Polycarp Research Institute. [Back]

13 Brind J, Chinchilli, VM, Severs WB, Summy-Long J. Induced abortion as an independent risk factor for breast cancer: a comprehensive review and meta-analysis. JNCI (1996) 50:481-96. [Back]

14 Evidence-based Guideline #7 (2000) RCOG Press, pp. 29-30. [Back]

15 Segi M et al. "An Epidemiological Study on Cancer in Japan." GANN, Vol. 48, Supplement: April, 1957. [Back]

16 Watanabe H, Hirayama T. "Epidemiology and clinical aspects of breast cancer." Nippon Rinsho (1968) 26:1853-9 (in Japanese). [Back]

17 MacMahon, B. et al. "Age at First Birth and Breast Cancer Risk," Bull. Wld Health Org. (1970) 43-209-21. [Back]

18 Howe HL, Wingo PA, Thun MJ, Ries LA, Rosenberg HM, Feigal EG, Edwards BK. Annual report to the nation on the status of cancer (1973 through 1998), featuring cancers with recent increasing trends. JNCI (2001) Vol. 93, No. 11, 824-42. [Back]

19 Beral V. Breast cancer and breastfeeding: collaborative reanalysis of individual data from 47 epidemiological studies in 30 countries, including 50,302 women with breast cancer and 96,973 women without the disease. The Lancet (July 20, 2002) 360:187-95. [Back]

20 Harris B-M-L, Eklund G, Meirik O, Rutqvist LE, Wiklund K. Risk of cancer of the breast after legal abortion during first trimester: a Swedish register study. BMJ (1989) 299:1430-2. [Back]

21 "Possible link between abortion & breast cancer summarily dismissed by abortion supporters and media / Critics say Women's E News jumps on disinformation bandwagon," RFM News Special Report, February 25, 2002. http://www.RFMNews.com. [Back]

22 "National Cancer Institute: Still guilty of scientific misconduct," press release, Coalition on Abortion/Breast Cancer, December 17, 2002. http://abortionbreastcancer.com/press_releases.htm. [Back]

23 "A slap in the face for breast cancer awareness month; 12 congressmen want re-publication of erroneous NCI web page regarding ABC Link," press release, Coalition on Abortion/Breast Cancer, October 28, 2002. http://abortionbreastcancer.com/press_releases.htm. [Back]

24 "National Cancer Institute pulls inaccurate web page repudiating abortion-breast cancer link," press release, Coalition on Abortion/Breast Cancer, July 2nd, 2002. http://abortionbreastcancer.com/press_releases.htm. [Back]

25 "National Cancer Institute shamelessly carries on cover-up," press release, Coalition on Abortion/Breast Cancer, March 20th, 2002. http://abortionbreastcancer.com/press_releases.htm. [Back]

26 Tang et al, Case-control differences in the reliability of reporting a history of induced abortion, Am J Epidemiol (2000) 151:1139-43. [Back]

27 Stephanie Salter, "Reproductive rights, Shame shouldn't be the Rx, Taking the politics out of abortion counseling," San Francisco Chronicle, November 3, 2002. [Back]

28 Stephanie Simon, "Abortion foes seize on reports of cancer link in ad campaign," Los Angeles Times, March 24, 2002. [Back]

29 Susan Milligan, "Abortion foes cite dubious health risk," Boston Globe, May 10, 2002. [Back]

30 Nancy Monson, "Seven cancer facts you need to know now," Redbook, September 2001. [Back]

31 Barry Yeoman, "Abortion and breast cancer: The truth on trial," Self Magazine, August 2002. [Back]

32 Mark Brown, "Voters need GOP showdown on abortion," Chicago Sun Times, January 24, 2002. [Back]

33 Fiona Stewart, Ph.D., "Behind that billboard," Herald Sun, March 26, 2002. [Back]

34 David Kessler, A Question of Intent: A Great American Battle With a Deadly Industry, Public Affairs, New York, NY (2001) p. 199-200. [Back]

35 Daling JR, Malone DE, Voigt LF, White E, Weiss NS. Risk of breast cancer among young women: relationship to induced abortion. J Natl Cancer Inst (1994) 86(21):1584-92; White et al. Breast cancer among young U.S. women in relation to oral contraceptive use. J Natl Cancer Inst (1994) 86:505-14. [Back]