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Induced abortion increases a woman’s risk of breast cancer, according to three studies published last year in Turkey, China and the United States.

On January 29 this year, Endeavour Forum’s research officer, Gabrielle Whiting, wrote to Professor Ian Olver (member of the advisory council of Cancer Australia and CEO of the Cancer Council of Australia) and to David Hill (director of the Cancer Council of Victoria), drawing their attention to this research and asking why they were not informing women.

As Miss Whiting received no reply from any of these cancer organisations for over four months, despite a further letter requesting a response, Endeavour Forum asked Victorian upper house MP, Peter Kavanagh (Democratic Labor Party, Western Victoria), to raise the matter in Parliament. He duly did so on June 9, raising an adjournment matter for the Victorian Minister of Health, Daniel Andrews, concerning “the apparent link between abortion and breast cancer”. Mr Kavanagh said: “During the abortion debate in this Parliament in late 2008 I went into considerable detail, listing some of the scientific evidence which demonstrates that having an abortion increases a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer. Even more recent scientific studies released in 2009 confirm such a link. “Concerned Victorians who have some expertise in these matters have reported to me that they have approached various health organisations and health leaders in Victoria to alert them to the latest research, but they have not received any acknowledgement or any other kind of response.

“The submitted research includes the following: Ozmen V. and others “Breast cancer risk factors in Turkish women” in the World Journal of Surgical Oncology, 2009; 7:37; Xing P. and others in “A case-control study of reproductive factors associated with subtypes of breast cancer in northeast China” in Medical Oncology, e-publication online, September 2009; Dolle J. and others “Risk factors for triple-negative breast cancer in women under the age of 45 years” in Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev 2009: 18(4), pages 1157-1166.

“Apparently these important warnings are being ignored by the health authorities to which they are being reported. It seems difficult to avoid the conclusion that ideological commitment to unrestricted abortion may be preventing a proper assessment of the health risks of abortion. “The action I seek from the Minister is that he seek an objective review of the evidence of a relationship between abortions and breast cancer risk, and if such a link is shown to exist, to issue medical warnings along these lines, even if this has the effect of reducing the number of abortions.” [Legislative Council: Hansard (Victoria), June 9, 2010, p.87].

Perhaps coincidentally, a couple of days later, Miss Whiting received a reply from Paul Grogan, director of advocacy for Cancer Council Australia, offering the same old excuses for why CCA does not warn women of their increased risk of breast cancer caused by abortion.
• First, he cited a meta-analysis published in the medical journal Lancet in 2004, which found no link. However, Dr Joel Brind, a professor of biology and endocrinology with the US-based Breast Cancer Prevention Institute, has examined this analysis and found it deeply flawed because the authors were very selective in which studies they included. But in any case, how could a meta-analysis of 2004 apply to three new studies in 2009?
• Second, Mr Grogan cited the hoary old theory of “response bias” to explain studies which do show a link between abortion and breast cancer. This theory claims that women with breast cancer tell the truth about their abortions while healthy women lie. This is not only insulting to healthy women, but there is no proof of such a bias.

In 2010, yet another study has been published, this time from Sri Lanka, indicating that women who have abortions triple their risk of breast cancer, and that breastfeeding for several months reduces the risk. The study focused on analysing the association between the duration
of breastfeeding and the risk of breast cancer. But the researchers also reported other “significant” risk factors for breast cancer, such as passive smoking and being post-menopausal. The highest of the reported risk factors was abortion. The study, entitled “Prolonged breastfeeding reduces risk of breast cancer in Sri Lankan women: A case-control study,” was led by Malintha De Silva and colleagues from the University of Colombo.

The researchers found that, among women who breastfed for between 12-23 months, there was a 66.3 per cent risk reduction in comparison to those who had never breastfed and those who breastfed for between 0 and 11 months. The risk reduction climbed to 87.4 per cent for those who breastfed for 24-35 months and 94 per cent among women who breastfed for 36-47 months.

We are waiting in breathless anticipation for the Cancer Council Australia’s explanation of this one.

Babette Francis, B.Sc. (Hons), is national coordinator of Endeavour Forum Inc.



Member Organisation, World Council for Life and Family

NGO in Special Consultative Status with ECOSOC of the UN