Abortion Breast Cancer

Posted By on April 13, 2008

“Do Spurious Links Between Breast Cancer and Abortion Work? Just Did!”

Blogging on Pseudo-Scientific Douche-Bags.: I read the opinion page of the Waco Tribune-Herald religiously. I’ve written several letters to editor, usually responding to some clueless creationist’s bogus claims, so I’m always on the lookout for my name (should it appear). Today’s letters to the editor contained a response to the following editorial, which I reproduce in its entirety before it disappears from the internet:

Editorial: Specious claims by abortion foes

We wish we could tell motorists to ignore a certain billboard on Franklin Avenue. That’s impossible, so we’ll point out why it should be ignored.

The billboard, purchased by opponents of legal abortion, asserts two specious linkages. First, it links abortion to breast cancer. Though advocates produce studies raising that concern, it is not shared by the American Cancer Society. Indeed, the society calls the claim false.

The billboard also implies that funds raised by the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure go to abortions.

False as well.

The relationship between Komen and Planned Parenthood is about detecting breast cancer through screenings and referrals — among a plethora of services Planned Parenthood offers for women in Central Texas.

Those are the facts for which the billboard has no room.

.: Karen Malec, of Coalition on Abortion/Breast Cancer, could not remain content with such sensible words plaguing the prestigious pages of the Waco Tribune-Herald. Apparently wishing to balance the sense/nonsense ratio with her own contribution, she issued forth a volley of falsehoods and fallacies.

.: Let’s start with her first claim: “Cancer groups admit that childbearing helps protect women against breast cancer.” Okay — that’s reasonable and supported by enough studies that I don’t even have to link to them. It’s a non-controversial point accepted by everybody. But we’re talking about abortion, not childbearing. What does the contentious billboard actually say?

“What? An abortion increases my risk for breast cancer? Why does the Komen Race grant $45,000 to Waco’s Planned Parenthood abortion provider?”

.: Sounds to me like they’re claiming the act of having abortion is what causes breast cancer. That’s a pretty reasonable interpretation of the sign, no? Malec follows her opening salvo with this quote plucked from an American Cancer Society press release:

“Much of the long-term underlying increase in incidence among women is due to historical changes in reproductive patterns, such as delayed childbearing and having fewer children.”

.: Delayed childbearing and having fewer children? That statement applies equally well to childless women who haven’t had an abortion. Take a look at the press release yourself. Hit Ctrl-F, search for “abortion”, and tell me what you find.

.: If the ACS’s quote about differences in reproductive patterns included abortion rates, they would’ve said so. The fact that they don’t is telling, and there’s a reason for that (more on that later). Malec continues her sleight of hand:

Childlessness and late first full-term pregnancy are known to increase breast cancer risk significantly. Nearly all of the childless woman’s breast lobules consist of immature, cancer-susceptible Type 1 and 2 lobules, where 95 percent of all breast cancers originate.

It is only during the last months of a first full-term pregnancy that 85 percent of the lobules mature into fully cancer-resistant Type 4 lobules.

Every subsequent full-term pregnancy results in an additional 10 percent reduction in breast cancer risk.

.: That’s all well and good — it may even be true — but what does that have to do with the physical act of getting an abortion? To say “Women who are childless and have had an abortion are at an increased risk for breast cancer” is just as true as saying “Women who are childless, have had an abortion, and wear red hats are at an increased risk for breast cancer.”

.: So continues Malec: “The American Cancer Society and Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure contradict themselves by denying a link between abortion and breast cancer.”

.: They contradict themselves only if you conflate “childlessness” with “having an abortion”. Luckily, the folks at the American Cancer Society are smarter than that. And it’s not just the ACS who understands the matter. Here’s the letter to the editor I cobbled together and sent a few hours ago (hyperlinks are added for convenience):

Karen Malec concludes her April 13th letter, “the childless woman who aborts her pregnancy has a greater risk than the one who has a baby.” Several studies state otherwise:

“Our results do not support the hypothesis that induced abortion or miscarriage increase the breast cancer risk of young women.” – Mahue-Giangreco M, et al, Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2003 Mar;12(3):209-14.

“It is concluded that there is no evidence linking abortion to the risk of breast cancer.” – Rosenberg L, et al, Am J Epidemiol. 1988 May;127(5):981-9.

“Pregnancies that end as a spontaneous or induced abortion do not increase a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer.” – Beral V, et al, Lancet. 2004 Mar 27;363(9414):1007-16.

“Overall, the findings provide further unbiased evidence of the lack of an adverse effect of induced abortion on breast cancer risk.” – Reeves GK, et al, Int J Cancer. 2006 Oct 1;119(7):1741-5.

“This study does not support the hypothesis that spontaneous or induced abortion appreciably influences subsequent breast-cancer risk.” – Parazzini F, et al, Int J Cancer. 1991 Jul 30;48(6):816-20.

“These findings do not support an association between spontaneous abortion and fatal breast cancer.” – Calle EE, et al, Cancer Causes Control. 1995 Sep;6(5):460-8.

“These data do not support the hypothesis that miscarriage or induced abortion represent substantive risk factors for the future development of breast cancer.” – Brewster DH, et al, J Epidemiol Community Health. 2005 Apr;59(4):283-7.

“In conclusion, neither a history of induced nor spontaneous abortions is associated with an increased risk of breast cancer.” – Erlandsson G, et al, Int J Cancer. 2003 Feb 20;103(5):676-9.

No doubt a space-conscious editor will cull several items from my list. For the record, I provided eight articles all stating the same thing: there is no evidence that abortion increases the risk of breast cancer.

.: Here’s Malec’s last line again: “If it’s true that childbearing protects women from breast cancer, then it’s self-evident that the childless woman who aborts her pregnancy has a greater risk than the one who has a baby.”

.: And here’s the same truth with all the extraneous, unsupported bits removed: “If it’s true that childbearing protects women from breast cancer, then it’s self-evident that the childless woman has a greater risk than the one who has a baby.”

.: Remember what the billboard said? “What? An abortion increases my risk for breast cancer?” I’m pleased to tell you, Anonymous Billboard Lady, that, no, an abortion does not increase your risk for breast cancer.

.: Unless you’re wearing a red hat.

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5 Responses to “Abortion Breast Cancer”

  1. […] Continue reading at the original site […]

  2. Johnny says:

    While the consensus indeed is there is no abortion-breast cancer link, one should not take this to mean no association whatsoever.

    The WHO stipulates carefully, that two of the larger studies find: “neither found an increased risk of breast cancer associated with first trimester abortion”.

    So its mostly true abortion may not increase risk, that doesn’t allow one to dismiss it. Moreover Malec’s mistake shouldn’t permit you to not bother to find out what the actual proposed biological mechanism is.

  3. Cody says:


    The claim is that having an abortion increases one’s risk for breast cancer. Systematic review of the literature, as I’ve documented, reveals that risk to be nonexistent, as in the two phenomenon have nothing to do with each other. Yet you persist in suggesting we look for a biological mechanism for a cause that has no discernible effects. Good luck with that.

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