Fed Agency Criticized for Refuting Abortion, Breast Cancer Link
By Nathan Burchfiel
May 16, 2005
(CNSNews.com) - A cancer prevention coalition, asserting that there is a link between abortion and breast cancer, is publishing a document Monday charging that scientists, including those from the National Cancer Institute, used "fraudulent research" to cover up the link.
Dr. Joel Brind, president of the Breast Cancer Prevention Institute, is publishing an article in the National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly, criticizing another article on the abortion-breast cancer issue that appeared last year in the British journal, The Lancet.
The Lancet article claimed to summarize numerous studies and concluded that "pregnancies that end as a spontaneous or induced abortion do not increase a woman's risk of developing breast cancer."
But Brind alleges that The Lancet article excluded data from 15 published studies that demonstrated an average 80 percent increased risk of breast cancer in women who had had an abortion.
He also criticizes the National Cancer Institute (NCI), a division of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for denying a connection between abortion and breast cancer. A report released by the NCI in February 2003 found that "induced abortion is not associated with an increase in breast cancer risk."
On its website, the NCI states that "large, well-designed studies have consistently shown no link between abortion or miscarriage and the development of breast cancer."
When contacted by Cybercast News Service on Friday, a spokesperson for the NCI refused to comment about Brind's assertions, other than to say the Institute sees the abortion-breast cancer controversy "as pretty much settled."
But Brind charges that the issue is anything but settled and that studies cited by the NCI are faulty.
During a 1996 survey of all women in Denmark, Brind alleges, some 60,000 of the oldest women in the study who had had abortions were "misclassified as not having had an abortion, because their abortions had not been entered into the computerized registry." Brind says that segment of the population endured the most cases of breast cancer.
He points instead to a 1994 study that showed a 50 percent increase in the risk of breast cancer for women who have abortions. Critics of that study say it is unreliable because it was based on interviews with women, not medical records.
Brind writes in the National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly that contrary to the NCI's opinion, abortion does increase the risk of breast cancer by halting the changes taking place in a pregnant woman's body.
As a pregnancy develops, he asserts, cells in the breast go through different stages. Early in a pregnancy, those cells are vulnerable to carcinogens -- cancer causing agents, according to Brind. As a woman proceeds with her pregnancy, she is exposed to high levels of estrogen - a known carcinogen -- but after 36 weeks the estrogen causes the cancer-vulnerable cells in the woman's body to mature into cancer-resistant cells, Brind argues.
When a pregnancy is cut short, the cells remain in stages susceptible to carcinogens and have been exposed to increased amounts of estrogen, therefore increasing the risk of developing cancer, Brind writes.
"Thus, the completion of a full-term pregnancy provides some level of permanent protection against breast cancer, because it leaves a woman with fewer vulnerable, undifferentiated cells which can give rise to cancer," he adds.
The same NCI findings that reported no link between abortion and breast cancer found that carrying a pregnancy to full term earlier in life - before 24 years old - decreases the risk of breast cancer. And Karen Malec of the Coalition on Abortion/Breast Cancer believes that represents an admission that abortion does increases the risk of cancer.
"Although American women have a 12.5 percent lifetime risk of breast cancer, and childbearing is known to be an effective means of risk reduction, women are encouraged to delay their first pregnancy [by abortion] and to have smaller families in the name of 'reproductive health,'" she says on her group's website.
Malec told Cybercast News Service she believes the NCI ignores studies showing a link between abortion and breast cancer for political reasons. "This is a political hot potato and the National Cancer Institute depends on Congress for its budget and this is a very scary issue for a lot of politicians to deal with."
She added that pressure from the abortion industry is similar to the pressure applied by the tobacco industry in trying to cover up the connection between tobacco use and lung cancer.
"There's a huge industry. The abortion industry is tremendously large," she said. "If [the tobacco] industry could corrupt science and scientists, then [the abortion industry] could certainly do it again."