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The pill, abortion & breast cancer: new studies suggest women falling victim to toxic cocktail.

Eleven years ago, Investigate magazine broke ranks with the rest of the New Zealand media and published a story they'd refused to: abortion appears to massively increase a woman's risk of breast cancer. Feminist groups were furious. More studies were ordered. Now, a decade later, the jury is in, and its bad news--our high breast cancer rates may be linked to the fact that one in every three pregnancies ends in a termination. It's the story the mainstream media are too gutless to report, but it's one every woman looking to weigh up the risks needs to know. IAN WISHART has the latest studies

To get an idea of just how hot-button this issue of the link between abortion and breast cancer later in life is, look no further than the Sydney Morning Herald. On August 7, SMH journalist Saffron Howden got stuck into Australian Federal Employment Minister Eric Abetz for daring to "draw a link between abortion and breast cancer in a television interview".

Just how bad did it get? Here's how Howden rolled it out:

Senator Abetz, the leader of the government in the upper house and the Employment Minister, made the comments on Channel Ten program The Project on Thursday night when asked if he believed the "factually incorrect" statement that abortion leads to breast cancer.

"I think the studies, and I think they date back from the 1950s, assert that there is a link between abortion and breast cancer," he said.

Senator Eric Abetz says studies have drawn a link between abortion and breast cancer.

When his comments were questioned, Senator Abetz said: "There are other organisations [other than the Australian Medical Association] that have differing views."

The Australian Medical Association said the comments were irresponsible.

"If he's quoting papers from the 1950s, I suspect that's where he's living," the AMA president, Associate Professor Brian Owler, said.

The resulting publicity firestorm prompted Prime Minister Tony Abbott to publicly give Abetz a dressing down, such was the screaming from feminist quarters and the medical community.

But was he right? Far from relying on 1950s data, new research is clearly showing a strong link, and it is coming from a region that does not have the political baggage surrounding abortion that exists in the West, and therefore the medical researchers have no reason to spin the data.

That region is India, where terminations are common and morally acceptable in a culture that already has a billion mouths to feed.

The Indian Journal of Cancer is reporting a study of 640 women, half diagnosed with breast cancer and half healthy to act as a control group. What it found is stunning. The modern lifestyle savagely boosts the mortality risk for women:

"History of abortion was also found to be positively associated with the risk of breast cancer with 6.26 times higher risk in women having a history of abortion. The risk of breast cancer increased 14.9 (95% confidence interval: 8.69, 25.7) and 3.29 (95% confidence interval: 2.15, 5.02) times in women having mean duration of breastfeeding less than 13 months and age at last childbirth more than 27 years, respectively [Table 2].

"It was found that the risk of breast cancer was 9.50 times higher in women having a history of consumption of oral contraceptive pills."

Expressed in plain English, the biggest risk factor for Indian women was shorter or no breastfeeding of children, with a whopping 15 times increase in risk. Use of the contraceptive pill was nearly ten times more likely to cause breast cancer, and having an abortion increased a woman's risk more than six times, or an increase of more than six hundred percent. When you put it like that, the figures are stark.

The study backs up what many studies in the West have found previously. A large American study in 1994, for example, published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, concludes: (1)

"Our data support the hypothesis that an induced abortion can adversely influence a woman's subsequent risk of breast cancer. However, the results across all epidemiologic studies of this premise are inconsistent--both overall and within specific subgroups. The risk of breast cancer should be re-examined in future studies of women who have had legal abortion available to them throughout the majority of their reproductive years, with particular attention to the potential influence of induced abortion early in life."

That study found an overall 50% increase in risk of breast cancer, but that rose to a horrific 90% risk increase for women who had abortions in their teenage years or after the age of 30:

"Highest risks were observed when the abortion was done at ages younger than 18 years--particularly if it took place after 8 weeks' gestation--or at 30 years of age or older. No increased risk of breast cancer was associated with a spontaneous abortion (miscarriage)."

American breast surgeon Angela Lanfranchi says the writing is on the wall, regardless of the gnashing of teeth: (2)

"In the past 30 years, landmark advances in developmental and molecular breast biology coupled with multiple epidemiologic studies from around the world have shown induced abortion to be an independent risk factor for breast cancer. Induced abortion before 32 weeks' gestation will impede the natural maturation process in the breast such that there is a significantly greater probability that breast cancer will develop later. Those most at risk of developing breast cancer after an abortion include teenagers (almost half of all first induced abortions between 2006 and 2010 were reportedly to teenagers) and women over 30, especially if they have a family history of breast cancer."

A big European study of more than 300,000 women (3) found that the older a woman is before having a child, the higher her risk of eventual breast cancer. Again, that backs up the 'use it or lose it' theme of previous studies when it comes to mammary tissue. The act of being pregnant causes permanent physical changes in breasts that protect women.

"Breastfeeding is thought to protect a woman from developing breast cancer by increasing breast differentiation, postponing the return of the ovulatory menstrual cycle post-pregnancy, and/ or changing the hormonal environment of the breast."

The study, however, found that breastfeeding only protected mothers who began having children in their late teens and 20s; again, the older a woman was in having children, the more likely that her breasts were too old to benefit from the protective effect of breastfeeding.

Significantly, the European study found no association between abortion and breast cancer, but there may be a good explanation for that.

The study, you see, did not separate out induced abortions from spontaneous miscarriages--it lumped them in together. As numerous studies have shown, miscarriages--because they follow and utilise the body's own hormonal pathways--do not appear to have any link to breast cancer. Abortions, however, where the woman's body is effectively taken by surprise and the pregnancy is terminated by an outside agency, sends hormones spinning, a bit like a car slamming into a wall rather than the driver having a chance to brake slowly and bring the vehicle to a stop. Given that a very high number of women spontaneously miscarry at some time in their lives, the European study effectively in combining the two things masks the impact of abortion on its breast cancer findings, making the study useless in that regard.

Another recent study comes from Iran, published in the journal Medical Oncology. (4) This study also found that women who delay having children into their thirties are four times more likely to be struck down with breast cancer, compared with women who begin giving birth in their early 20s. Having an abortion tripled your risk of breast cancer.

Intriguingly, the Iranian scientists found that the more children a woman has, the more protection against breast cancer. A mother of five or more has only i/i00th the risk of a woman who has never had children, and for each additional birth after five, the risk reduced by a further 50% on top of that. The study did not examine the impact of increased stress on life expectancy!

"Nulliparity (never having children), late age at first birth and abortion were the most important reproductive factors associated with breast cancer risk; therefore, it is recommended to women with these risk factors to perform breast cancer screening tests earlier," conclude the Iranian team.

In India, researchers studying breast cancer cases at one hospital (5) found having an abortion increased a woman's risk of breast cancer by 475%, and oral contraceptive use boosted risk by 500%. Conversely, having three or more children reduced the risk by 60%.


When Hollywood's Angelina Jolie underwent a double mastectomy to reduce her risk of breast cancer, she sent a message to women worldwide who also had the BRCA genetic mutation. Now a new study suggests Jolie could have kept her breasts--maybe.

The European scientists (6) wanted to find out what environmental or lifestyle factors might trigger the BRCA mutations to cause cancer. What they found was that women with the mutation who had multiple full term pregnancies (three or more) greatly reduced the chances of BRCA causing any problems:

"Our results confirm the existence of the protective effect of an increasing number of full-term pregnancies (FTPs) toward breast cancer among BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutation carriers ([greater than or equal to]3 versus 0 FTPs: hazard ratio (HR) = 0.51)."

Expressed in English, that's a 49% reduction in risk for BRCA women who have at least three children.

Conversely, the study has found that BRCA women who've had abortions increase the chances of BRCA kicking in by 139%, compared to BRCA women with no terminations. Again, solid evidence of the abortion-breast cancer link that the Australian Medical Association denies.

The study authors caution that the protective effect of multiple full term pregnancies is strongest in women with the BRCA1 mutation in the central region, where those women were able to reduce their breast cancer risk by an average of 73% even by having only one child.

The results clearly show that women thinking about a double mastectomy should read more of the research first and talk about it with their consultants.

So where does all this leave the culture wars that splashed across the Australian newspapers in August?

The Sydney Morning Herald wrote at the time: "The abortion-breast cancer theory has been rejected by Cancer Australia, the World Health Organisation, the US National Cancer Institute, Britain's Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, and health authorities in Victoria and NSW."

Having now seen the actual studies, you may wonder whether the news media and health providers--who make money from both breast surgery and oncology as well as the surgery associated with pregnancy terminations --have been pulling the wool over women's eyes in an effort to protect their industries.

Dr Joel Brind, one of the research scientists most outspoken on the abortion-breast cancer link, says it boils down to a woman's right to give informed consent: (7)

"It is absolutely a matter of the most fundamental of patients' rights that a patient considering a surgical or medical procedure be informed that having the procedure--most particularly if the procedure is an elective procedure performed on a healthy patient, as induced abortion generally is--will result in her having a higher long-term risk of developing a potentially life-threatening disease--such as breast cancer--compared to not having the procedure."


(1.) Doling et al, "Risk of Breast Cancer Among Young Women: Relationship to Induced Abortion", JNCI J Natl Cancer Inst (1994) 86 (21): 1584-1592. doi: 10.1093/jnci/86.21.1584

(2.) "Breast Cancer and Induced Abortion: A Comprehensive Review of Breast Development and Pathophysiology, the Epidemiologic Litera ture, and Proposal for Creation of Databanks to Elucidate All Breast Cancer Risk Factors" by Angela Lanfranchi, Issues In Law & Medicine, Spring, 2014 29 Issues L. & Med. 3

(3.) Ritte et al, "Reproductive factors and risk of hormone receptor positive and negative breast cancer: a cohort study", BMC Cancer 2013, 13:584 doi:10.1186/1471 -2407-13-584

(4.) K. O. Hajian-Tilaki et al, "Reproductive factors associated with breast cancer risk in northern Iran", Medical Oncology June 2011, Volume 28, Issue 2, pp 441-44

(5.) Ramchandra Kamath et al, "A Study on Risk Factors of Breast Cancer Among Patients Attending the Tertiary Care Hospital, in Udupi District", Indian J Community Med. 2013 Apr-Jun; 38(2): 95-99. doi: 10.4103/0970-0218.112440

(6.) Lecarpentier et al, Breast Cancer Research 2012, 14:R99 content/14/4/R99

(7.) testimony/brind/
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Author:Wishart, Ian
Publication:Investigate HERS
Date:Dec 1, 2015
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