Patrick Carroll's Research and the ABC Link Debate

Steven Mosher
by Colin Mason
Director for Media Production at PRI.
Reproduced with Permission

Rates of breast cancer are skyrocketing in countries which have legalized abortion. But this suggestion -- that abortion causes breast cancer -- causes radical feminists, who are otherwise greatly concerned about breast cancer -- to go into spasms of denial. This is why it is vitally important to the pro-life cause that the ABC link be investigated rationally, documented carefully, and presented convincingly. British statistician Patrick Carroll, who is Director of Research at Britain's Pension and Population Research Institute, has done just that in his new study, "Assessing the Damage," which was just published on October 25th of this year.

Some years ago, Carroll recognized that the U.K., because of the all-pervasive British Medical System and the public funding of abortions, has some of the most complete data on abortion, breast cancer, and other illnesses available anywhere. He used this data, which spans the 40 years since the legalization of abortion in 1967, to see if it showed any connection between abortion and suiicide, mental illness, and breast cancer in each of the U.K.'s four regions: England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. He also looked at other medical sequalae of abortion, such as the level of mental illness and subsequent suicide rates.

According to official figures, the modal age for abortions in England is 20, while the modal age for live births is 30. Women are marrying later, if at all, and the proportion of pregnancies among unmarried women continues to grow. Many of these women seek abortions. Of the 180,000 abortion in 2006, 100,000 were performed on women who had no prior abortions, while 80,000 were performed on women who have at least one prior abortion.

Carroll's study shows, as one might suspect, that mental illness is more common following first-time abortion. As the number of first-time abortions grows, so has antidepressant use. Thirty-one million prescriptions were written in England in 2006, a nearly 10 million increase over the 21.3 million written in 2001.

Most importantly, however, his study clarifies why there has been a radical upswing in the incidence of British breast cancer since the legalization of abortion. Rates of breast cancer have risen by an incredible 80 per cent since the late seventies.

"When you can not only explain the past, but offer predictions of the future, you are in possession of a very powerful theory indeed."

Carroll begins by noting that upper class women are more likely to develop breast cancer and more likely to have abortions. "The social gradient for female breast cancer is unlike that of other cancers with upper class women having a higher rate of incidence than those from lower social classes," Carroll writes. "As in other countries this is termed a negative or reverse social gradient for female breast cancer . . British official publications report on the social gradient but do not explain it in terms of known risk factors."

This reverse social gradient for breast cancer is far too steep to be explained by the fact that upper-class women are having children later in life, when the risk for breast cancer is more severe. Rather, Carroll explains, "upper class and upwardly mobile women are more likely to choose abortion when they are pregnant and this helps to explain this otherwise inexplicable social gradient. Upper class women tend to postpone childbearing and have a later age at first birth. Abortions before full-term pregnancies are the more carcinogenic nulliparous [first-time] abortions."

The results? After a judicious parsing of the data, Carroll concludes: "Breast cancer can be considered a long term sequel to abortion."

Although the causes of breast cancer are not completely understood, it is commonly accepted that hormonal changes play a large role. Pregnancy causes breast cells to grow and divide. An abortion interrupts this process, leaving large number of undifferentiated cells which are especially susceptible to cancer.

The media in the U.K., not surprisingly, have not been kind to Carroll's study and the British medical establishment has yet to comment. What can they say, after all? The data on abortions and breast cancer come from the government itself, and are not subject to "recall bias," or any of the other shortcomings that normally afflict survey data. The argument is clear and convincing.

While Carroll ends by calling for further study, he also makes it clear that he thinks the facts speak for themselves. "The correlation [between breast cancer and abortion] is much higher than for other known risk factors such as Childlessness, Age at First Birth and Fertility," he says. He goes on to point out that "Modelling using abortion and birth rates as explanatory variables has been used to make forecasts for eight countries for the future incidence of female breast cancer."

When you can not only explain the past, but offer predictions of the future, you are in possession of a very powerful theory indeed. We have long been convinced at PRI that the abortion breast cancer link is fact. Carroll's work should help convince all those who are not blinded by the ideology of choice.