October 1st 2002

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HEALTH: Implied admission of abortion-cancer link

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Implied admission of abortion-cancer link

by Babette Francis

News Weekly, October 1, 2002
In a victory for Professor Joel Brind, President of the Breast Cancer Institute, who lectured in Australia three years ago on the increased risk of breast cancer caused by induced abortion, the US National Cancer Institute, the most prestigious anti-cancer organisation in the world, has pulled its web page which had minimised or denied the association between abortion and breast cancer.

The NCI's fact sheet had been heavily criticised in recent months by Karen Malec, President of the Coalition on Abortion/Breast Cancer, (an international women's organisation founded to protect the health and save the lives of women by educating and providing information on abortion as a risk factor for breast cancer), as well as a prominent scientist, at least three physicians and 28 members of Congress, including Rep. Dave Weldon, MD.


These critics objected to the agency's misrepresentation of the research, reliance on erroneous studies, confusion of the effects of miscarriage and abortion, inclusion of false statements and refusal to acknowledge the deleterious effects of abortion on the scientifically accepted breast cancer risk factor - postponement of first full term pregnancy.

In a press release, Mrs Malec said,

"We're delighted that the National Cancer Institute has pulled its web page discussing the abortion-breast cancer link. The web page misinformed women about research paid for by US taxpayers and even contained lies about the findings reported in the medical literature."

Early last month, 28 members of the US Congress sent a letter to Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson requesting a review of the NCI's fact sheet and calling its information "scientifically inaccurate and misleading to the public". They asked Secretary Thompson to check the web page "for accuracy and bias" and to take it down until after the conclusion of the review.

The Congressional Representatives criticised the agency for having suggested that "women who have had either induced or spontaneous abortions have the same risk as other women for developing breast cancer", when in fact 28 out of 37 studies worldwide and 13 of 15 American studies report risk elevations.

The Congressional Representatives condemned the NCI for depending on a single study, Melbye et al. 1997, to deny a relationship between abortion and the disease, "although that study contains many significant flaws".

In Australia, the same cover-up of the seriousness of the abortion-breast cancer link continues. In an article in the August/September issue of Cancer Network News, published by the Cancer Council of Victoria, while there is acknowledgment of the breast cancer risk caused by delaying first full-term pregnancy beyond age 30, the article concludes that first trimester abortions do not increase risk!

As most abortions would be on women under age 30, and these inevitably delay women's first full-term pregnancy (average age for first births in Australia is 29), clearly breast cancer risk for these women has increased.

The landmark World Health Organisation study by McMahon et al (1970) estimated a 3.5% increase in breast cancer risk for every year's delay in first full-term pregnancy.

Equally misleading is the Cancer Council of Victoria's booklet Breast Cancer: A Guide for Women which states that breastfeeding does not protect against breast cancer.

This is contrary to the World Health Organisation's "Innocenti Declaration", Florence, Italy, 1990, which stated that breastfeeding for 24 months or more for one or more infants reduced both breast cancer and ovarian cancer risk.

British study

A more recent study by British scientist Valery Beral et al (published in The Lancet, 20 July 2002) involving more than 150,000 women in 30 countries revealed that women could halve their risk of contracting breast cancer if they breast-fed for longer.

If British women were to have more children, who are breast-fed for two years each, the disease, now the commonest of cancers in Britain, would be all but wiped out, the scientists say. Breast-feeding for an extra six months reduces a woman's risk by 5%, and each child that is breast-fed offers further protection of 7%, the study found. The effect is seen even in women who have a family history of the disease or who carry the genes that predispose them to it, and exists over and above the protective effect of childbirth.

Sir Paul Nurse, chief executive of Cancer Research, UK, has commented that "each piece of evidence we uncover reinforces the view that hormonal and reproductive factors are vital in the development of breast cancer".

  • Babette Francis - babette@endeavourforum.org.au

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