January 25th 2003

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY: Defence: Time for a reality check

EDITORIAL: The flight from fatherhood

CANBERRA OBSERVED: Iraq another divisive issue for the ALP

IRAQ: The case against Saddam Hussein

STRAWS IN THE WIND: The hard questions

COMMENT: Abortion-cancer row continues

LETTERS: Mutual concerns

LETTERS: Dealing with Asia

LETTERS: Protecting the Australian way of life

LETTERS: Free trade

LETTERS: 'Dumbing down'

COMMENT: Sean Penn, Blue Heelers: the politics of celebrity

PROFILE: Why Belloc still matters

BOOKS: The Fabrication of Aboriginal History, by Keith Windschuttle

BOOKS: Culture of Life: Culture of Death, edited by Luke Gormally

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Abortion-cancer row continues

by Babette Francis

News Weekly, January 25, 2003
In News Weekly (5 October 2002) I reported that the National Cancer Institute of the USA, arguably the premier anti-cancer organisation in the world, had deleted its web page which had falsely claimed that there was no proven link between induced abortion and breast cancer.

There followed several weeks of silence when the page remained blank.

In November 2002 the NCI put up a new page in which it asserted that the abortion-breast cancer link was "inconclusive" but that a workshop would be held in early 2003 to resolve the issue. The NCI page also acknowledged as risk factors "late age of birth of first child" and "never had children", both of which are connected with abortion as abortion delays childbirth and leaves many women unable to carry an infant to term.

Predictably there were combative editorials in the New York Times and elsewhere, which accused the NCI of submitting to pressure from the Bush Administration.

Dr Joel Brind, Professor of Endocrinology, says that the NCI has gone from outright falsehood to silence to "whispering the truth", which I suppose is progress of a sort. His response to the editorials was published in the Star Ledger on 7 January 2003 under the heading "Cancer institute cave-in: Women put at risk as agency placates the abortion lobby"

According to Professor Brind:

"Since at least 1996, the NCI has maintained an 'Abortion and Breast Cancer' fact sheet on its web site, following numerous reports, including two high profile studies sponsored by the NCI itself, which showed significantly increased risks for breast cancer among American women who had undergone abortion.

"Even then, the influence of politics on the NCI's position was obvious. After all, would not any reasonable standard of medical ethics demand that patients be warned of credible studies showing possible ill effects of any surgical procedure, especially one that is a matter of choice?

"Yet, spurning the precautionary principle, the NCI instead characterised the research as 'inconsistent and inconclusive'.

"Later in 1996, I and three colleagues from the Pennsylvania State Medical College in Hershey published our 'Comprehensive review and meta-analysis'.

"In this paper, which was published in the British Medical Association's epidemiology journal, we reviewed, quantitatively and qualitatively, all of the abortion-breast cancer studies published to date. (18 out of 23 showed increased breast cancer risk.)

"We also discussed how the great surge of the hormone oestrogen, during a normal pregnancy, could indeed be responsible for increased risk, if the pregnancy is aborted. (Moreover, the subnormal oestrogen level of most pregnancies which miscarry, explains the fact that miscarriages generally do not increase breast cancer risk.)

"Since 1996, the NCI's fact sheet on abortion and breast cancer has undergone some changes, but none so drastic as this past March, when the fact sheet shifted to the position: 'it appears that there is no overall association' between abortion and breast cancer. It relied heavily on a 1997 study on Danish women, which study reported 'no overall effect on the risk of breast cancer'.

"The Danish study had many serious flaws. For one, it misrepresented the year in which abortion was legalised in Denmark, 1939 as 1973, thus misclassifying 60,000 women in the study who had legal abortions as not having had any abortions.

"The study also included over 350,000 women who were under age 25 by the end of the study: old enough to have had 40,000 abortions, but fewer than 10 cases of breast cancer.

"Despite all this, and the resulting much touted but highly dubious claim of 'no overall association', the Danish study nevertheless reported a significant, almost doubling of breast cancer risk among women who had second trimester abortions.

"Perhaps the most glaring fact of all is that abortion results in a higher risk of breast cancer for most women who get them, simply by postponing a woman's age at first childbirth.

"In other words, even if we dismiss, for the sake of argument, the finding of 13 out of 15 studies on American women, that abortion per se increases breast cancer risk, it still results in higher breast cancer risk than would childbirth, for all childless women under age 30 and that represents most American abortion patients.

"Shockingly, this fact has been widely acknowledged by the medical and scientific communities for over three decades, but how many American women are aware of it?"

  • Babette Francis: babette@endeavourforum.org.au

- Babette Francis of Endeavour Forum Inc. will be speaking on this subject at the NCC national conference on Sunday, February 2.

- Dr Angela Lanfranchi, breast surgeon from New Jersey, will be dealing with the topic at the Thomas More Summer School on Sunday, February 9, 2003.

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