23 Oct Breast Cancer’s Most Preventable Risk Factor
In the United States, October is the month for pumpkins and trick-or-treaters. It also National Breast-Cancer Awareness Month, a nationwide campaign “dedicated to educating and empowering women to take charge of their own breast health.” Judging by the multitude of pink ribbons from sea to shining sea, it is quite an effective life-saving campaign. Yet there is one more important factor in the breast cancer message that we want to raise awareness of today:
Having an abortion may increase a woman’s risk for breast cancer.
Often called the ABC link, Joel Brind, Ph.D. and colleagues have been studying the abortion-breast-cancer link since the 1990’s. In 1996 they found “a 30 percent overall increased breast cancer risk among post-abortive women worldwide.” In addition, a recent 2013 Bangladesh study showed that women who had “any induced abortions were more than 20 times as likely to get breast cancer, compared to women with no abortions.”
Today, abortion is still the “most preventable risk factor for breast cancer.”
Abortion increases a woman’s risk for breast cancer in two ways. The first way is called the “protective effect of childbearing.” As Dr. Brind explains, “scientists have long understood that the risk of breast cancer is reduced when a woman completes a full-term pregnancy.” Medical experts agree that women can reduce their lifetime risk for breast cancer by:
1) Having a first full term pregnancy at an early age;
2) Bearing more children; and
3) Breastfeeding for a longer duration.
By changing the child bearing patterns of young women, abortion deprives them of the protective effects of early full-term pregnancy, increased childbearing, and breastfeeding. This is not debated in the scientific community. In Dr. Brind’s words, “It has been unequivocal for over 40 years that a pregnant woman who chooses abortion will end up with a higher long-term risk of breast cancer than if she chooses instead to let nature take its course.”
The second way that abortion increases the risk of breast-cancer has been more controversial through the years. Known as the “independent link,” it means that “a woman who has an abortion is left with more cancer-vulnerable cells than she had before she ever became pregnant.” Evidence of this “independent link” was seen as early as 1981, and according to Dr. Brind, over the last five years, studies from nations where both abortion and breast cancer used to be rare, such as China, Iran, Turkey, and Armenia, are now “showing a clear and significant independent ABC link.”
Time itself also seems to support this “independent ABC link.” The Coalition on Abortion/Breast Cancer notes that, “only a few decades ago, breast cancer was known to be a grandmother’s disease. Because of abortion, it has become a young woman’s disease, and breast cancer rates have skyrocketed over 40% since the surgical procedure was legalized in the U.S. in 1973.” Is it a coincidence that breast cancer in young women has increased since the legalization of abortion? Time will continue to tell, as “it often takes 10-20 years for cancer to develop after an abortion.”
Interestingly, natural miscarriage does not increase the risk of breast cancer. According to the Coalition on Abortion/Breast Cancer, “Research has shown that most miscarriages do not raise breast cancer risk. This is due to a lack of estrogen overexposure. Miscarriages are frequently precipitated by a decline in the production of progesterone which is needed to maintain a pregnancy. . . the levels of each hormone rise and fall together during pregnancy.”
Eight medical organizations and a bioethics journal have joined the coalition to recognize and raise awareness of the independent ABC link. In addition, another medical group, the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, has called for “full disclosure” of the ABC link because, “while there is a difference of medical opinion concerning the abortion breast cancer link, there is a considerable volume of evidence supporting this link, which is, moreover, highly plausible. We believe that a reasonable person would want to be informed of the existence of this evidence before making her decision.”
We agree. If any other elective procedure had such a “highly plausible” link to breast cancer, women would want to know.
In the medical world, it is not always possible to prove that one thing absolutely causes another. Causation can only be proven through experimental design studies, and these are not always possible or ethical in medical research. For example, researchers could not assign some participants to have an abortion, while assigning the “control” group to not have an abortion.
As a result, medical decisions are often based on strong correlation. The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals recently explained (on another abortion issue), “It is a typical medical practice to inform patients of statistically significant risks that have been associated with a procedure through medical research, even if causation has not been proved definitively.” The court continued, “The ‘standard practice’ in medicine is to “recognize a strongly correlated adverse outcome as a ‘risk,’ even while further studies are being conducted to investigate which factors play causal roles.”
Life is a gift, and every life is precious. That is why during this month of Breast Cancer Awareness, we want to raise awareness that abortion can actually take the lives of both unborn children and their mothers.
Please help us share Dr. Brind’s important message to the women in your life, that “Young motherhood will drive their future breast cancer risk way down, while abortion will drive it way up. It really is as simple as that.”
President, United Families International