July 30th 2005

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY: In the name of Allah, the wise and the merciful

EDITORIAL: Islamist terrorism: what it signifies

CANBERRA OBSERVED: Dangers of a national ID card

BIOETHICS: Review of human cloning and embryo experimentation

DRUGS CONFERENCE: Tougher approach on drugs urged

WOMEN'S HEALTH: Conspiracy of silence about breast cancer

WORKPLACE RELATIONS: New workplace reforms: the devil is in the detail

SUGAR INDUSTRY: Ethanol coming: but nothing for farmers

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT: How to help countries to prosper

STRAWS IN THE WIND: Immigration - who cleans up? / Copping payback / To be or not to be? / Terrorism as ideology

CULTURE AND CIVILISATION: The Judeo-Christian legacy

CONSERVATION: Conservation vs. environmentalism

A national ID card? (letter)

Chirac's untimely taunts (letter)

Max wrong on tax (letter)

Revenue-raising stunt (letter)

BOOKS: CIVIL PASSIONS: Selected Writings, by Martin Krygier

BOOKS: BOY SOLDIERS OF THE GREAT WAR: Their own stories for the first time, by Richard van Emden

Books promotion page

Conspiracy of silence about breast cancer

by Babette Francis

News Weekly, July 30, 2005
Women who avoid abortions and who have children before the age of 30 have a greatly reduced risk of breast cancer, according to scientific studies, says Babette Francis.

In all the thousands of words which have been written on breast cancer since Kylie Minogue's diagnosis, little has been said about prevention. Emphasis has been on early diagnosis; none on risk reduction.

Early diagnosis is very important, of course, because the earlier the cancer is identified, the greater the chance of cure. However, prevention is even better than cure, but cancer councils, intimidated by feminists, are reluctant to advise how reproductive factors affect breast-cancer risk.

Most breast cancer is caused by over-exposure to estrogen, a female hormone made in the ovaries and fat. Estrogen, an acknowledged carcinogen, stimulates breast tissue to increase cell divisions, which can result in cancers due to mutations.

The more estrogen breasts are exposed to, the higher the risk of breast cancer. During each menstrual cycle, women are exposed to increased estrogen levels at ovulation. Early age at puberty and late menopause increase breast cancer risk; late puberty and early menopause decrease risk.

Breast cancer risk is affected by the maturation of lobules which comprise milk glands. At birth females have primitive type 1 lobules which develop into type 2 lobules at puberty. Both types 1 and 2 are susceptible to carcinogens. After 32 weeks of pregnancy, lobules mature into type 3 lobules. Type 4 lobules are formed after childbirth and produce milk. Types 3 and 4 are resistant to carcinogens.

If a woman does not have a full-term pregnancy, she has an increased risk of breast cancer since she never develops types 3 and 4 lobules. If she has children later in life (after age 30), she has increased risk because for most of her menstrual life estrogen has been stimulating types 1 and 2 lobules. If she has children as a teenager, she has decreased risk of breast cancer as lobules mature early to types 3 and 4.

In an article, "Young, Pregnant and Cancer Free", Time magazine (May 2, 2005) stated:

"Women who give birth before age 20 halve their risk of developing breast cancer, according to a new study. A hormone produced during pregnancy seems to provide lifetime protection."

Parents who rush a pregnant teenager to an abortion clinic, should be aware that they are depriving her of protection against a disease which is the major killer of women of child-bearing age, and the third most significant cause of death in post-menopausal women. Unplanned pregnancy won't kill you or your daughter, but breast cancer might.

A woman who breastfeeds has low estrogen cycles or misses menstrual cycles altogether. She has decreased breast cancer risk due to less exposure to estrogen and breast tissue maturation to type 4 lobules. Risk decreases with longer duration of breastfeeding - the World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding for 24 months. Mothers who leave babies in day-care deprive themselves of the risk-reduction that breastfeeding provides.

During a normal pregnancy, estrogen levels rise 2,000 per cent by the end of the first trimester. Most miscarriages do not increase breast cancer risk since they are associated with low estrogen levels. A first trimester miscarriage is quite different from induced abortion of a normal pregnancy.

When pregnancy is terminated before breast cells reach full maturity, a woman is left with more types 1 and 2 lobules than before her pregnancy started and therefore is at increased risk. The risk is especially high for teenagers who have an abortion before their first full-term pregnancy; for women who have never had a child; and for those with a family history of breast cancer.

Most women who develop breast cancer have not had abortions, nor do all women who have abortions develop breast cancer. Nevertheless abortion is a risk factor and is the most avoidable risk factor. Women cannot change family history, age at puberty or menopause, but they can avoid abortions.

The incidence of breast cancer jumped 40 per cent in 10 years (1987-1997), 28 years after the de facto legalisation of abortion in Australia. If any business had such a ghastly result, it would be bankrupt, but health departments remain unmoved.

The best way to reduce risk of breast cancer is to have babies before age 30 and breastfeed as long as possible. This is "the unacknowledged elephant in the room" - or babies in the nursery which cancer councils do not talk about.

  • Babette Francis, B.Sc (Hons), is co-ordinator of Endeavour Forum Inc., an affiliate of the International Coalition on Abortion/Breast Cancer.

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