Womens Health

Controversy Over Possible Abortion-Breast Cancer Link

| by Baptist Press

WASHINGTON -- National Cancer Institute researcher Louise Brinton, who previously rejected a connection between abortion and breast cancer, apparently has changed her position.

Brinton organized a National Cancer Institute (NCI) workshop in 2003 on whether there is a link between abortion and breast cancer. Her findings, announced at that event, concluded a relationship between abortion and breast cancer did not exist, and the NCI made every effort to assure women a link was implausible.

Last April, however, Brinton co-authored another study, which examined the link between oral contraceptives and triple-negative breast cancer, and came to a different conclusion. The study said women under 40 years of age have a 40 percent chance of triple-negative breast cancer if a woman has had an abortion or has taken oral contraceptives.

The study, which was published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention, said abortion is a "known or suspected risk factor" for breast cancer.

"I think it has been made very clear here that this has an impact on women's lives throughout the world," said Karen Malec, president and co-founder of the Coalition on Abortion/Breast Cancer.

Despite recent questions in the wake of Brinton's apparent switch, the National Cancer Institute continues to stand by her 2003 report. Contacted for a comment on the new study, the National Cancer Institute referred to its official statement on its website, which says, "Having an abortion or miscarriage does not increase a women's subsequent risk of developing breast cancer."

Organizations such as the American Cancer Society (ACS) continue to support the National Cancer Institute, and the ACS claims research studies have not found a plausible link between abortion and breast cancer.

Malec believes the abortion industry is doing its best to mislead women by saying that a 40 percent risk of triple-negative breast cancer is nothing to be concerned about.

"Those in the abortion industry, believe it or not, are putting a spin on the findings of this study," Malec told Baptist Press. "I find it ethically appalling that they would do this. There are no ifs, ands or buts about this. It was the press that gave women these statistics, not the cancer institutes."

According to the Breast Cancer Prevention Institute, a link between abortion and breast cancer is found in the development of breast tissue during pregnancy. When a woman has an abortion, she is left with more cancer-vulnerable cells. This causes an increased risk of breast cancer.

More than two dozen peer-reviewed studies conducted around the world have shown evidence of a link, according to the Coalition on Abortion/Breast Cancer.

A blogger at About.com, which is owned by The New York Times Co., contributed to the debate by writing, "Now NCI, usually a trusted institution, is telling us that there is a 40 percent risk increase for women who have had abortions. I just wish that agencies like the NCI would get their story straight, so we have as much information as possible, to reduce our risk of breast cancer."

The Coalition on Abortion/Breast Cancer sent a letter to President Obama, as well as party leaders in Congress, asking that the National Cancer Institute be investigated for misconduct.