Abortion - Breast Cancer link?
Introduction: Risk factors; a known ABC link
What are the risk factors for breast cancer:
There are many generally acknowledged risk factors for breast cancer:
||Age. Most cases happen to women who are over 50 years of age.
||Being female. Breast cancer in men happens, but is relatively rare.
||A teen-aged woman starting to smoke within five years of her first
period. (This increases her chances of breast cancer by 70%)
||Having had cancer (other than non-melanoma skin cancer) in the past.
||Having a diet low in fruits, vegetables and grains.
||Having a family history of breast cancer in first degree relatives.
||Never having been pregnant.
||Having started to menstruate before age 12.
||Having started menopause after age 55. 1
In addition, the multi-national World Health Organization "studies
and MacMahon et al clearly established that the younger she has a full
term pregnancy the less chance she has of developing breast cancer."
2 Dr. Irma Russo of Fox
Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia, PA, examined the results of
many studies around the world and found that a full-term pregnancy by
age 20 cuts a woman's breast cancer risk by half. 3
However, Abortionfacts.com estimates that 60 to 70% of all
breast cancers in women occur in individuals who do not have any of the "classic
risk factors." 4
There are other factors that may increase the chances of a woman
developing breast cancer. However, no consensus, has currently been reached among
||Being on a high fat diet.
||High levels of environmental pollutants.
||Heavy consumption of alcohol.
||Using street drugs.
||Electrical fields from high-tension lines, power transformers, etc.
||Starting to use contraceptive pills before the age of 20.
||Using contraceptive pills for more than 10 years.
||Having one or more abortions.
Common pro-life beliefs about an ABC link:
physicians -- notably Dr. Joel Brind
-- that women who have had an abortion are at greater risk of
contracting breast cancer later in their life.
It should be no surprise that most groups in the pro-life and pro-choice
movements take opposing views on the possibility of a positive link between
abortion and the incidence of breast cancer.
||Many, perhaps most, pro-life web sites accept and promote this belief.
They tend to report on studies that appear to show such a link, and quote
researchers who believe that a link does exist. They typically ignore studies
that show that no such link is likely. One agency posted
advertisements on U.S. east coast subway systems. They said "Women Who
Choose Abortion Suffer More and Deadlier Breast Cancer!" The ad included a
toll-free number. When women phoned, they were told that half of all
abortion patients would develop breast cancer later in life. One suspects that
the group knew that their information was false. However, their belief that
abortion is murder may well have affected their judgment. They might have felt
that ends justify the means.
||Many, perhaps most, pro-choice web sites reject this belief. They tend to
list research projects that appear to show no linkage; they often quote
experts and organizations which believe that either no link exists or that the
existence of a link has not been proven at this time.
Our policy is to present all points of view on each topic, and let our
visitors make up their own minds. We feel
that women who are considering whether to have an abortion need to have the most
accurate information available.
One abortion-breast cancer (ABC) link is known to exist:
In reality, a link does exist. But it is rarely discussed. As noted above, physicians have known for years that women have never been
pregnant have about twice the risk of developing breast cancer, when compared
to women who have given birth to at least one child. 5 Some
component in the
pregnancy process appears to give women partial immunity to breast cancer later
Studies conducted by Jose Russo and her colleagues
have suggested that that breast cells only reach full maturity after a
completed pregnancy. Once this process -- called differentiation -- is
completed, the cells are less vulnerable to cancer-causing changes. An
early pregnancy hastens the cells' differentiation.
Dr. Russo said:
"A high-susceptibility or high-risk window exists early in life,
between the start of ovarian function and the first pregnancy. During
this period, the mammary gland has continuously varying characteristics
influenced by ovarian and pituitary hormones. These traits change during
pregnancy under the influence of embryonic and placental hormones." 3
Some pro-life and pro-choice promoters explain this fact in two opposing
||A common pro-life position: Consider a young woman who is
pregnant. If she continues the pregnancy and gives birth, then her
chances of having breast cancer will be lower than if she elects to have
an abortion. By having an abortion, she loses the considerable
protection that an early completed pregnancy offers. Thus, it can be
argued that having an abortion increases her chances of contracting
||A common pro-choice position: Consider the same woman. If she
has an early abortion, then she will not complete the pregnancy, and so
will not receive the protection against breast cancer that having a baby
would have provided. Her chance of contracting breast cancer is unchanged
from what it would have been if she had not become pregnant. Since her
chance of getting cancer is unchanged, then having an abortion does not
increase her chances of contracting breast cancer; it merely keeps her chance of
developing breast cancer constant.
An alternative way of viewing this link is to consider two "average"
women: Jane and Joan are both 20 years of age, and are pregnant for the
first time in their life. Jane decides to continue the pregnancy; she
gives birth at the age of 21. But Joan decides to have an abortion. Joan
later has her first child at age 30. Joan will have an increased chance of
developing breast cancer than Jane. But that increased risk was not caused
by the abortion; it was caused by her decision to not have a baby until
later in life. A research study of 1,000 Janes and Joans would show that
there is an ABC link. Yet the true link may be between the year of first
pregnancy and cancer; it may be totally unrelated to abortion.
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
"Breast cancer risk factors," at:
B. MacMahon et. al, Bulletin of the World Health Organization,
43:209-21, (1970). Quoted in "The deadly after-effect of abortion: breast
"Early Pregnancy Cuts Breast Cancer Risk," My Ustinet News,
Dr. & Mrs. J.C. Willke, "Why can't we love them both," at:
- Journal of the National Medical Association, 1993-DEC.
Copyright 1998 to 2007 by Ontario
Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2007-MAY-24
Author: B.A. Robinson