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Monday, October 22, 2007

Snubbing cancer study will only hurt women

Research showing link to abortion ignored by media

By Dennis Byrne
Chicago Tribune

During National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, it is fitting and proper that women be informed about any newly discovered dangers, even as the public groans under the weight of all the warnings surrounding the mere act of living.

For example, a well-researched Chicago Tribune story last week disclosed that women who have just a couple of alcoholic drinks daily increase their breast cancer risk by 13 percent. Coincidentally, a new study reported that abortion is an important breast cancer risk factor, yet I couldn't find a word describing the research in mainstream media.

How to explain this disparity? I'll be vigorously advised that "most" studies disprove an abortion-breast cancer link. Or that the study in question appeared in a "conservative" scientific journal. Or that the study is bogus or unimportant. Or, more rudely, that the whole breast cancer argument has been concocted by anti-abortion rights advocates to make women afraid to have abortions. The issue is dead, I'll be notified. Kaput. Here I would remind critics that in science it's not who says it or how many say it that counts. What does count are the data and the rigor with which they are collected, analyzed and held up to a scientifically credible hypothesis.

So let's look at the science of this latest study, which appeared in the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons. Using statistical techniques and reliable national health data, the study of eight European countries found, to a statistically significant degree, that the incidence of breast cancer increases with the incidence of earlier abortions. The researcher, Patrick Carroll, used the same mathematical model employed in a 1997 study that predicted with extraordinary accuracy breast cancer increases in England and Wales from 1998 to 2004. Using that model, Carroll predicts that countries with higher abortion rates -- England and Wales -- could expect a troubling increase in breast cancer rates. The Irish Republic and Northern Ireland, where abortion rates are lower, should experience a smaller increase. And in Denmark and Finland, where abortion rates have declined, cancer rates should similarly decline. Some will object because the study is "only" epidemiological -- meaning that it relies on a statistically significant relationship between the incidence of breast cancer and abortion to infer that one causes the other. The standard, but simple-minded, objection to epidemiological studies is that a correlation does not necessarily prove causation. That's true, to some extent. But, epidemiologists use correlations in more complex ways, combining them with a range of medical, sociological, psychological and other information to lead their research in the right direction, to support or debunk hypotheses, and toward solutions for significant public health problems.

In the study of the abortion-breast cancer link, the working hypothesis is simple: For a woman who has not had a child before, an induced abortion is more likely to cause cancer because it interrupts the hormonal development of breast cells for later lactation, thus leaving the cells more vulnerable to uncontrolled and abnormal division, i.e. cancer.

The problem with dismissing the Carroll study because it is epidemiological is that you'll also have to dismiss a multitude of public health studies, including ones claiming a link between radon and lung cancer. These are the same epidemiological studies that alarmed millions of Americans, frightening them into buying radon detectors and creating a huge radon mitigation business. No study is perfect, and Carroll's shortcoming is that his data do not allow comparisons of individual women over time. But other major studies have, and according to one unchallenged compressive analysis of those studies, they show that a pregnant woman who has never had a child before and aborts in the first term increased her chance of breast cancer by 50 percent.

Science, by its nature, exists in an unsettled state. Evidence piles up on many sides. The public becomes unsettled. The media, as is their wont, avoid the complexities, especially when the complexities challenge preconceived or prevalent political notions. Instead of coming to grip with such concepts as epidemiology, they escape into silence. And ill-serve the public.

Speaking of media credibility, or lack of it, the conservative blogosphere is buzzing with the mainstream media's failure to report retired Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez' scathing criticism of the press in a recent speech. Yet, the media gave wide coverage when, in the same speech, he criticized America's conduct of the war. His criticism of the media would have resonated with millions who question the media's integrity and balance. Having been in this business for almost 40 years, I'm ashamed of and unable to understand my profession's utter dereliction when it comes to reporting its own failures.


Laurie Gingrich said...

Appreciated your article today - but what's with the sexy graphic?

I'm pro-choice, and I agree with your column's point that women need the best medical information they can get, and that it is worrisome, unacceptable, if valid research is suppressed or played down. The difference of course is that I believe women should have this information so they can make their own best choices, while I suspect that you support certain research so you can use it to pressure lawmakers to take away womens' and doctors' choices. But whatever.

So really, what's with picture of the naked woman? The graphic to accompany your thoughtful article didn't have anything to do with the text. I'm confused as to what the message of the graphic is. "Women who have abortions are sexy?" "Women who don't have abortions will maintain their sexiness?" "Women look great from behind with their hair up and pearl earrings?"

I know you don't have control over this, but can't I read the editorial pages without being distracted by a picture of a sexy naked woman?

This becomes more interesting as you think about the connections between women's health and sexuality. I've never had an abortion, but I tend to think it would be something I would do if a doctor told me I would die if not - I think of it a medical procedure to save my life. While I suspect that men think of abortions and start freaking out because they think of women having sex. So this graphic here is not helpful in suggesting the interest in women's health is from the point of view of a women's sexiness. Again, pretty remote from the point of your editorial.

Laurie Gingrich
Chicago Illinois
Married to the same man 25 years, two children, baptized Christian and regular churchgoer.

Scott Boucher said...

Just a question. If the basic premise of the study is correct, then you should see the same corelation in women that have suffered an early miscarriage. I wonder where that study is?

Karen Malec said...

Most miscarriages do not raise breast cancer risk because most miscarriages are abnormal pregnancies. Most miscarriages take place in the first trimester. Women will often remark, after having had a first trimester miscarriage, that they did not "feel pregnant." Their breasts weren't sore and tender. They didn't feel nauseous. That's because the hormone level was inadequate to maintain the pregnancy. If there is no estrogen overexposure, then there is no increase in breast cancer risk.

By contrast, most abortions are normal pregnancies.

Research shows that second trimester miscarriages and premature births before 32 weeks gestation increase breast cancer risk.

These are biologically the same events as having an abortion. The hormonal changes to the woman's breasts are essentially the same. Hence, this research supports an abortion-breast cancer link.

Women are never exposed to more estrogen at any time in their life than when they are carrying a normal pregnancy. Starting early in pregnancy, estrogen levels increase substantially. By the end of the first trimester, estrogen has climbed 2000%.

Steroidal estrogens are listed on the nation's list of known carcinogens. The World Health Organization and the National Cancer Institute list combined (estrogen plus progestin) oral contraceptives and combined hormone replacement therapy as carcinogens (cancer-causing agents).

This, too, supports an abortion-breast cancer link because the biological basis is the same for all three risks.

The childless woman's breasts consist almost entirely of cancer-vulnerable, immature Type 1 and 2 lobules. Most breast cancers (95%) originate in Type 1 and 2 lobules.

During the first months of a normal pregnancy, estrogen causes the breasts to grow. It does this by making the lobules multiply. Hence, she develops more Type 1 and 2 lobules - more places for cancers to develop in her breasts.

During the last months of a full term pregnancy, the fetus produces pheromones - human chorionic gonadotropin and human placental lactogen - which play a role in maturing most of mom's breast lobules into fully cancer-resistant Type 4 lobules.

By the end of a full term pregnancy, 85% of her lobules are Type 4, and 15% are Type 1 and 2. She's left with more cancer-resistant tissue than she had before she became pregnant. The woman who aborts is left with more places in her breasts for cancers to start than she had before she became pregnant.

With each subsequent full term birth, she acquires an additional 10% reduction in breast cancer risk.

That's why women with more children have a lower breast cancer risk. It explains why scientists have found a correlation between having an early first full term pregnancy and reduced breast cancer risk (the earlier, the lower the risk).

For further information, see Dr. Angela Lanfranchi's article at:

Anonymous said...

gee karen...some of your statistics are off...During pregnancy, total estrogen levels are 1,000 times that of a menstruating woman.

details...details...never let details get in the way of the forced pregnancy advocates.

According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), approximately 3 to 7 percent of all breast cancer diagnoses take place in women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. So, going forward with a pregnancy is no immunization from breast cancer. And what are the medical/health risks of pregnancy? Are they not to be factored in your POV?

Breast cancer diagnosed during pregnancy is often detected at a later stage due to the natural enlargement of the breasts, which makes it more difficult to find or notice changes. So, pregnancy can mask breast cancer in pregnant women, and endanger the lives of both the mother and fetus. Or did you overlook that statistic?

maybe you should look at other medical information: javascript:void(0);

oh, BTW, avoided identifying youself, on purpose?
Aren't you the president of The Coalition on Abortion/Breast Cancer...and not just a run-of-the-mill blog contributor?

Correlation does not necessarily prove a cause and effect relationship: Medical studies are often designed to detect correlations of health factors. Unfortunately, a correlation between two factors does not necessarily imply that there is a cause and effect relationship between them. There might be a third factor involved. For example, some researchers suspect that the consumption of alcohol actually causes some breast cancers. A group of 1000 Mormon, Muslim, and/or Evangelical Christian women might well include a larger than average number of teetotalers, and a much lower number of abortions than average. A similar number of women with no particular religious affiliation might elect to have more abortions and to drink more alcohol. If both groups were combined in a study, a correlation between abortion and cancer would be found, even though there was no cause-and-effect linkage between abortion and cancer. The actual link would be between alcohol and breast cancer.

Frankie said...

Thank you for refusing to post my comment. My suspicion of you has been confirmed.

Dennis Byrne said...

What post?

Paulette Hoppesch said...

Thanks, Dennis, for your article about the failure of the media (and the American medical community) to report the facts about abortion. Typically, the only research information on abortion publicized and accepted by these entities is from the Alan Guttmacher Institute (Affiliated with Planned Parenthood - the largest abortion provider in our country). Breast Cancer is not the only risk associated with abortion. A recent study(1-2 yrs. ago), by a pro-abortion scientist(I believe in Denmark), showed that post-abortive women are far more likely than their counterparts to develop serious mental illness.

And how will we get better research here in the United States? Most states do not require reporting of the number of abortions performed, let alone any complications and long term results of this surgery. Most states do not even require abortion providers to inform women of the risks of this procedure. How does that protect women? It is so shrouded in secrecy that women's health will remain in the dark ages for years to come!

Folks can check out for more references to scientific research addressing these issues.

A note to Laurie Gingrich who sees abortion as something she would do if her life were threatened by her pregnancy. Before 1973, pregnancies could be terminated if the mother's life were in danger. That was never an issue. For example, in the case of an ectopic pregnancy. Abortion was legalized for other reasons. As far as Planned Parenthood is concerned, abortion is a means of population control (of minorities in particular) and making money. See to read the words of Margaret Sanger,the founder of Planned Parenthood, who promoted abortion for racial purification.

Paulette Hoppesch
Catholic, Pro-Woman, and Pro-Life.

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for reporting on the abortion-breast cancer link. All we women need is more lies, cover-ups, and silence. I always think it's odd: "Walk for the Cure." How about "Walk for Prevention"?
Helen Burns, pro-choice (But some choices are always wrong. Like murder.)

Anonymous said...

Dennis, I have never commented on a blog before, but your article deserves my time. It's about time somebody "preaches to the chior" about this. By the way, Australia has documented studies from decades ago regarding the correlation to abortions and breast cancer. The real reason the US does not acknowledge this information is the fact that the abortion industry makes lots of money for those involved, period. Whether one is pro-life or pro-abortion, money is money and it talks louder than common sense at times. (i.e. Vioxx, etc.)
I applaud you for speaking the truth. There are so many times when I want to cancel my Tribune subsctiption (such as the deliberate exclusion to truth about vaccines and shaking baby syndrome article a few years ago) and then I read your article...
Thank you!
Carl Zegan
Grayslake IL

Stephen Schade said...

Mr. Byrne:

A few observations are in order:

First of all, abortion is about choosing the lesser of two evils. An increased risk of cancer must be weighed into the equation, along with the risk to a woman's life or health that results from maintaining a pregnancy.

Secondly, abortion increases the relative risk of breast cancer by 50%. However, the absolute risk is still less than 1%, which is minimal by any reasonably standard. That you continue to harp on this issue shows how desperate you are to prove your viewpoint.

Finally, Gen. Sanchez's view of the press is merely his opinion. It should not be reported as fact.

The real tragedy here is that you switched from blue to red even as the rest of the state moved in the opposite direction. If you really want to report media failures, you should admit the slanted information you presented in this column.

Anonymous said...

Most miscarriages do not raise breast cancer risk because most miscarriages are abnormal pregnancies. Most miscarriages take place in the first trimester. Women will often remark, after having had a first trimester miscarriage, that they did not "feel pregnant." Their breasts weren't sore and tender. They didn't feel nauseous. That's because the hormone level was inadequate to maintain the pregnancy. If there is no estrogen overexposure, then there is no increase in breast cancer risk.

By contrast, most abortions are normal pregnancies.

Most miscarriages? Most women? Most abortions? That's a lot of "mosts" without any backup. My first pregnancy was a 1st trimester miscarriage and boy did I ever "feel pregnant." So after my doctor told me I had lost my first child, should she then have followed up with "and now I need to speak to you about your increased risk of breast cancer." Because if this research is so sound, she should have done so, as a responsible physician.

But I get the feeling people touting this research and the grave risk to women care more about their own anti-abortion agenda than they do about the actual women and their health.

Karen Malec said...

I find it ironic that a writer who calls himself or herself "Anonymous" would accuse me of not identifying myself. At least readers can Google my name.

As for the health risks of pregnancy, it's worth considering the fact that 40,460 breast cancer deaths are expected in the U.S. this year, but (if we can believe the Centers for Disease Control) 540 women died of maternal causes in the U.S. in 2004.

The absolute risk of breast cancer due to abortion translates into approximately 10,000 additional cases of breast cancer per year with about 2,000 deaths and a countless number of children without mothers and husbands without their wives.

Blood estradiol (estrogen) levels start climbing several days after conception. By 7-8 weeks of pregnancy estradiol levels are six times greater than at the time of conception and over twice the highest level reached in the non-pregnant state (preovulatory peak). By the end of the first trimester, estradiol has climbed 2,000%. [See]

"Anonymous" said "going forward with pregnancy is no immunization against breast cancer" because some women are diagnosed with breast cancer during pregnancy.

It takes years before a pre-cancerous cell becomes cancerous and then develops into a recognizable malignant tumor. Breast cancer during pregnancy or shortly thereafter sometimes occurs among women who have delayed their first full term pregnancies.

Women receive maximal protection from breast cancer when they have an early first full term pregnancy before age 24. The longer a woman waits to have a first child, the longer she stretches out the window during which she is the most cancer-vulnerable.

The longer she delays a first birth, the more opportunities there are for abnormal cells to accumulate. (Planned Barrenhood, of course, is in the business of causing delayed first births and childlessness.)

By the end of a first full term pregnancy, 85% of her breast lobules have matured from cancer-vulnerable Type 1 and 2 lobules into cancer-resistant Type 4 lobules. Fifteen percent of the lobules still remain cancer-vulnerable. The protective effect of childbearing is only conferred after 32 weeks gestation.

With every subsequent birth, the mother receives an additional 10% reduction in breast cancer risk.

Research shows that when healthy women and breast cancer patients are compared (with both groups having had children), the sick women have the greater percentage of cancer-vulnerable Type 1 lobules.

Interestingly, there is a large body of research that shows that, among pregnant women diagnosed with breast cancer, those that gave birth instead of aborting their pregnancies were more likely to survive the disease. A full term pregnancy has been called a "natural form of chemotherapy." []

It's ludicrous to use the argument that "correlation does not necessarily prove cause and effect" when we have a half-century of epidemiological research showing a strong correlation, as well as animal research, biological evidence and unrefuted biological reasons for the abortion-breast cancer link.

Additionally, the U.S. National Cancer Institute and the World Health Organization have classified combined (estrogen plus progestin) oral contraceptives and combined hormone replacement therapy as cancer-causing drugs. That, too, supports an abortion-breast cancer link because the biological basis is the same.

Moreover, research shows that premature birth before 32 weeks gestation increases breast cancer risk. That supports an independent link between abortion and breast cancer because the hormonal changes in the breasts are the same.

No one challenges the link between premature birth and breast cancer, but when it comes to the abortion-breast cancer link some people behave like the character Regan in the movie The Exorcist when holy water was sprinkled on her.

Those who care about women's lives do not show a reckless disregard for the facts. They are not cavalier about the absolute number of breast cancer cases, and they do not try to muddy the waters by speculating about the risk of childbirth vs. the risk of breast cancer.

Stephen Schade said...

Since 88% of abortions are performed during the first trimester, most abortions are like most miscarriages regarding hormonal levels. Like Byrne, pro-lifers distort the truth to make their case. It is far easier to start with the facts and work forward, rather than starting with a conclusion and trying to work backward.

Karen Malec said...

Stephanie Schade said, "Since 88% of abortions are performed during the first trimester, most abortions are like most miscarriages regarding hormonal levels."

It is a disservice to women to make up "scientific facts" out of thin air.

Starting with the publication of a 1976 study by Kunz and Keller (British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology 83:640-4), studies have shown that viable pregnancies are associated with elevated levels of estradiol (estrogen), but miscarriages are characterized by low levels of estrogen.

See Dr. Joel Brind's lecture for a discussion of this research. Start reading just before the section entitled, "Estradiol Levels," here:

Most abortions, however, are viable pregnancies. If they were not viable pregnancies, there would be no need for these women to visit an abortionist.

Stephen Schade said...

Scientific facts are not being made up out of thin air. First of all, high estrogen levels have been linked to an increased risk of miscarriage. Moreover, both abortion and miscarriage have been implicated in endometrial cancer.

Finally, my name is Stephen, not Stephanie. Perhaps this lack of attention to detail is why some use a single, outdated source (from 1976) in an effort to make a case.

Karen Malec said...

Stephen Schade:

You have not provided any citations to back your claims.

An insurance industry trade journal called The Actuary discussed the abortion-breast cancer link and its impact on insurance premiums and reserves last week. Because insurers are in the business to make money and they must please their stockholders, the article provides a clear sign that the abortion-breast cancer link is for real. The article is:

"The Breast Cancer Epidemic"
By Patrick Carroll
The Actuary

The Coalition on Abortion/Breast Cancer published a press release discussing that paper at:

Stephen Schade said...

My point is not that there is not a possible link between abortion and breast cancer. Rather, it is that there is also a link between miscarriage and high estrogen levels. Sources are given below:

It should also be noted that the connection between high estrogen levels and breast cancer is in dispute.

Karen Malec said...

Stephen Schade:

The sources you're using are not relevant to the issue at hand. You are talking about luteal phase defect, an important cause of infertility. Yes, miscarriages are generally the result of inadequate progesterone, but this is usually accompanied by low estrogen, since both estrogen and progesterone are made by a common pathway. This has been documented in many peer reviewed studies--long established in the 1970's to 90's. A key reference is the Stewart et al study of 1993 on women undergoing artificial insemination. [Journal of Clin Endocrinol Metab 1993;76:1470-6]

You said, "It should also be noted that the connection between high estrogen levels and breast cancer is in dispute," but that is clearly not true.

Estrogen is known as a mitogen and a carcinogen.

Steroidal estrogens have been on the U.S. National Toxicology Program's list of "known carcinogens" for approximately five years.

Read the Henderson Lecture, "Estrogens as a Cause of Human Cancer," dating from 1988. [Cancer Research 48, 246-253]

See also Katherine Miller's article in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute in which she quotes David Longfellow, Ph.D., chief of the Chemical and Physical Carcinogenesis Branch at the National Cancer Institute. He said, "It has been an uphill battle to convince the mainstream that estrogen initiates cancer by damaging DNA." [Journal of the National Cancer Institute, Vol. 95, No. 2, 100-102, January 15, 2003]

The Women's Health Initiative found a 26% increased risk for women who used estrogen plus progestin hormone replacement therapy in 2002 (JAMA Vol. 288)

The World Health Organization and the U.S. National Cancer Institute list estrogen plus progestin oral contraceptives and hormone replacement therapy as carcinogens.

I encourage you to use medical journal references to back up your claims in the future.

Stephen Schade said...

These sources are relevant to the issue at hand. They clearly establish a link between miscarriage and high estrogen levels.

The only common pathway in the production of estrogen and progesterone is the first step, in which cholesterol is reacted to pregnenolone. While the latter goes directly to progesterone, the path to estrogen is as follows: pregnenolone-->170H-Preg-->DHEA-->androstenedione-->estrogen. Each of these steps also requires an enzyme. Because of the different pathway that is involved, it is erroneous to conclude that low progesterone would necessarily be accompanied by low estrogen.

Some studies do dispute the link between high estrogen levels and breast cancer (

Harmony said...

It seems to me that there is a very simple link between abortion and breast cancer.

Perhaps the abortion does not cause the breast cancer directly (or perhaps it does), but the choice the women made to put off having a child certainly has an effect. No one can deny that women are having babies later and later in life, and there is also ample evidence that the incidence of breast cancer has been on the rise. Many studies have consistently documented the link between delayed childbearing and increased risk of breast cancer (see Surely no one can deny that link....