May 12th 2007

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY: ANZAC DAY: A new dawn for Australian national pride

EDITORIAL: Labor's uranium policy: when 'yes' means 'no'

CANBERRA OBSERVED: Has Kevin Rudd made his biggest mistake?

WATER: Water crisis: farmers' warnings ignored

NATIONAL AFFAIRS: Why Kevin Rudd leads in the polls

LABOR PARTY: Australian union movement's last hurrah

STRAWS IN THE WIND: ABC's John Curtin - a missed opportunity / Labor conference a gold-plated flop / Melbourne's continuing transport fiasco / Ice man cometh

INTELLIGENCE CORNER: Terror Australis - will the public ever wake up?

FAMILY ASSISTANCE: Howard's cash benefits for families

SCHOOLS: Report slams school curriculum muddle

DRUGS POLICY: $150 million campaign against 'Ice' - too little, too late

MEDICAL: Oral contraceptive link to breast cancer

HISTORY: Wilberforce's epic battle to end slavery

Plight of Tamils in Sri Lanka (letter)

Sinhalese speaking up for Tamils (letter)

Religious vilification laws (letter)

General Monash (letter)

BOOKS: BETWEEN TWO WORLDS: The Inner Lives of Children of Divorce

BOOKS: THE OCCUPATION OF IRAQ: Winning the War, Losing the Peace

Books promotion page

Oral contraceptive link to breast cancer

by Babette Francis

News Weekly, May 12, 2007
The risk of pre-menopausal breast cancer is increased by 44 per cent for women who take the contraceptive pill before having their first child, writes Babette Francis.

While the left-liberal US media are hyper-ventilating about the US Supreme Court decision upholding Congress's ban on partial-birth abortion (“An Unconscionable Abortion Ruling”, shrilled the Los Angeles Times), there has been no fanfare and no media coverage about a study released by the Mayo Clinic which reiterated the link between oral contraceptives and breast cancer.

The research concluded that the risk of pre-menopausal breast cancer is increased by 44 per cent for women who take the contraceptive pill before having their first child.

It is such a significant risk that the main researcher stated women should be informed. One could bet, however, that the various cancer councils won't inform her - they believe that women are so wedded to taking their daily pill (even if they are not wedded to anyone else) that their equanimity should not be disturbed.

Feckless teenagers

Besides, what else could one do about feckless teenagers who keep on getting pregnant and even giving birth despite all the sex-ed, the condom-vending machines, the morning-after pill, the inter-uterine devices, the Implanon, the NuvaRing, the - well back to the pill.

In 2005, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a division of the World Health Organization (WHO), declared the combined estrogen-progestogen oral contraceptives (OCs) as carcinogenic. This is the most recent low-dose contraceptive currently available and which the manufacturers trumpeted as being “safe” for women.

This outright declaration by the World Health Organization of the proven dangers of combined OCs was a vindication for those who have been working for years to publicise their dangers. The IARC placed the contraceptives into its Group 1 classification - the same as for tobacco and asbestos, the highest classification of carcinogenicity, used only “when there is sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity in humans”. Combined estrogen-progestogen OCs are the most commonly prescribed forms of contraceptives.

The Mayo Clinic report - which confirms the WHO finding - is entitled “Oral contraceptive use as a risk factor for pre-menopausal breast cancer: a meta-analysis”. It was authored by Chris Kahlenborn, MD, a specialist in internal medicine at Altoona Hospital, Pennsylvania. Dr Kahlenborn said the results mean that, following existing standards of informed consent, “women must be apprised of the potential risk of pre-menopausal breast cancer prior to commencing drug use”.

Dr Kahlenborn focused on the younger, pre-menopausal women who had been on the pill before having their first child. His study looked at dozens of case-control and cohort studies and several other meta-analyses to reach his conclusions. He found 21 of 23 studies showed a connection between the contraceptive pill and cancer, something that certainly should be alarming women.

“From the perspective of epidemiology and public health, we must continue to closely follow the epidemiology of OC use and health outcomes, given the widespread use of these agents and their high potential to impact women's health,” the report said.

“The current study highlights the need for a close evaluation of OC use before first full-term pregnancy since this is an important biological issue with clear clinical and public health implications.”

In Australia, the National Breast Cancer Foundation holds a number of fund-raising activities throughout the year, leading up to October, Breast Cancer Month.

The event for May is the Mother's Day Classic, a run/walk for breast cancer research. This year will mark the 10th anniversary of the Mother's Day Classic - the NBCF has done a commendable job of raising over $2.4 million for research programs.

However, this research is mainly directed towards treatment and support for breast-cancer patients. What one would like to see is more effort being directed towards prevention by publicising the known risk factors.

Some risk factors - such as genetic history - women cannot avoid. But they are not being told that commencing their child-bearing years early, i.e., having their first baby by age 25 lowers their risk, and for older mothers, breastfeeding is especially protective.

Other risk factors include induced abortion and using hormonal replacement therapy (HRT), both avoidable.

Research is valuable, but it is only of value if the information derived from it - such as highlighting avoidable risk factors - is widely disseminated.

This would make all the walking, running, jumping and investment in symbolic pink ribbons so much more effective.

Radical feminists should not be allowed to control the agenda and conceal facts that the contraceptive pill, abortion and leaving babies for prolonged periods in institutionalised child-care instead of breastfeeding are not healthy for women, let alone babies.

Giving women this information is not tantamount to chaining them to the kitchen sink.

- Babette Francis, B.Sc. (Hons), is national co-ordinator of Endeavour Forum Inc.

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