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Abortion - Breast Cancer link?

Ideologically-driven political interference

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Ideology-driven political interference:

NARAL reports that the National Institutes of Health (NIH) posted an information sheet about the ABC link on their website prior to mid-2002. The fact sheet was called "Abortion and breast cancer." It concluded that there was some uncertainty about the existence of an ABC link until the early 1990s. The uncertainty triggered several well-designed studies, including one published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1977. It found no link between abortion and the risk of breast cancer. 1 Some pro-life federal legislators were unhappy with that conclusion and started the following sequence of events:

bulletMid 2002: Twenty-two pro-life members of Congress wrote to Tommy Thompson, Secretary of Health and Human Services complaining about the fact sheet. 2 Shortly afterwards, the NIH removed the sheet from their website.
bullet2002-NOV: The NIH posted a new version of the fact sheet; it concluded that results of studies into the ABC link were "inconsistent." It said:

"The possible relationship between abortion and breast cancer has been examined in over thirty published studies since 1957. Some studies have reported statistically significant evidence of an increased risk of breast cancer in women who have had abortions, while others have merely suggested an increased risk. Other studies have found no increase in risk among women who have had an interrupted pregnancy. 3

According to the Minority Staff of the House Committee on Government Reform:

"This new fact sheet erroneously suggested that whether abortion caused breast cancer was an open question with studies of equal weight supporting both sides. The New York Times called the NCIs new statement 'an egregious distortion of the evidence.' 4 According to the director of epidemiology research for the American Cancer Society, 'This issue has been resolved scientifically ... This is essentially a political debate." 5

bullet2002-DEC: Some pro-choice members of Congress wrote to Thompson to protest the change. They suggested that the NIH had distorted and suppressed "... scientific information for ideological purposes." 3
bullet2003-early: The National Cancer Institute (NCI) held a conference of over 100 of the world's leading experts to investigate the ABC link. The group included geneticists, epidemiologists and oncologists. After reviewing the results of all existing studies, they concluded that: "induced abortion is not associated with an increase in breast cancer risk." That is, the "link" is non-existent. A summary report containing their findings has been placed online by the NCI. Some of their conclusions were:
bullet"Early age at first term birth is related to lifetime decrease in breast cancer risk."
bullet"Induced abortion is not associated with an increase in breast cancer risk."
bullet"Recognized spontaneous abortion is not associated with an increase in breast cancer risk."

"The NCI Board of Scientific Advisors and Board of Scientific Counselors reviewed and discussed the results of the Early Reproductive Events and Breast Cancer Workshop, and unanimously approved the Workshop findings." 6

bullet2003-MAR-21: The NCI page was updated to reflect the conclusion of the workshop: "that having an abortion or miscarriage does not increase a womans subsequent risk of developing breast cancer." 7

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bulletAt least one of reliable study may have shown an ABC link with late abortions. This finding is one more reason why a woman who has decided to terminate her pregnancy do it as early as possible.
bulletAlthough some studies appear to show a correlation between abortion and breast cancer, there many not be a cause-and-effect relationship between the two. Another factor, like the woman's age at first completed pregnancy, might be the actual cause.
bulletThe Danish study of 1997, the UK meta-study of 2004, and others seem to conclusively prove that no ABC link exists, other than the one described above.

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The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. United States House of Representatives, Committee on Government Reform - Minority Staff, Special Investigations Division,  "Politics and Science in the Bush Administration," 2003-AUG, Page 17, at:
  2. Jocelyn Kaiser, "Nudge From Congress Prompts NCI Review," 297 SCIENCE Page 171 (2002).
  3. Letter to Secretary Tommy Thompson, U.S. Dept of Health & Human Servs., 2002-DEC-18.
  4. "Abortion and Breast Cancer," New York Times, 2003-JAN-06.
  5. Ibid, Page 18
  6. "Summary Report: Early Reproductive Events and Breast Cancer Workshop," National Cancer Institute, 2003-MAR-25, at:
  7. National Cancer Institute, Abortion, Miscarriage, and Breast Cancer Risk." 2003-MAY-30, at

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 Home page > "Hot" topics > Abortion > Medical problems > Cancer > here

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Copyright 1998 to 2007 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2007-MAY-24
Author: B.A. Robinson

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