There is a correlation between breast cancer and abortion, new research has found.

In an article for the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons (Spring 2017), researchers have urged the medical fraternity to acknowledge evidence of increased breast cancer risk caused by induced abortion and hormonal contraception.

Concentrating in particular on the breast cancer epidemic in the UK, the authors draw attention to the increased lifetime risk of breast cancer which is one in seven for women when only malignant cancers are counted, and one in six when when in situ cancers (those that remain in the site of origin, and have not spread) are counted.

The Breast Cancer Prevention Institute further reports that, between 1957 and 2013, there were 37 statistically significant worldwide studies showing a correlation between induced abortion and breast cancer (a list of these studies can be found here).

In 2002, there were 34,319 malignant breast cancer cases in England, increasing to 46,085 in 2014. In situ breast cancer cases more than doubled from 3,152 in 2002 to 6,824 in 2014. The authors state that full public acknowledgement of the risk factors of induced abortion and hormone contraception is needed before breast cancer rates will decline:

“The lack of official explanation for the remarkable social gradient of female breast cancer, when such great resources are available for cancer research, is also a failure of public health education and is consistent with the neglect of breast cancer prevention programs.

If fertility and induced abortions are recognised as explanatory variables it is possible to model and forecast breast cancer numbers in future years to enable planning of adequate treatment facilities with some precision.”

However, a marked unwillingness to openly acknowledge risk is attributed to medical professionals’ fear of litigation:

“In the UK there are additional reasons why health authorities and the medical professions take a defensive stance and do not acknowledge the long-term effects of hormonal contraceptives or any of the cancer-inducing effects of legally induced abortions. Each prescription for hormonal contraceptives has a doctor’s signature. Every abortion notification form (HSA1), as required by the 1967 Abortion Act, needs two doctors’ signatures. In the UK, claims under medical professional liability insurance are largely in the area of obstetrics and gynecology. If women who experience breast cancer could make claims against doctors for prescribing hormonal contraceptives or approving induced abortions, there would be many more claims. For this reason it is understandable that British medical journals are reluctant to publish papers that report a link of breast cancer to induced abortions.”

In the 2016 documentary film Hush, investigative journalist Punam Kumar Gill scrutinised the abortion-breast cancer link with similar alarming conclusions: that research overwhelmingly indicates a correlation between induced abortion and breast cancer risk, but that the truth is not being used to educate women in their reproductive and health choices. Punam, who identifies as pro-choice, was shocked at the body of evidence supporting the connection and the reticence of health organisations to engage with or even acknowledge the findings.

The Science

How does having an abortion cause breast cancer?

A woman’s body goes through myriad changes during pregnancy, breasts included. When she has an abortion it isn’t only the pregnancy that is interrupted, but the development of breast tissue which is at some stage of transformation, making it unstable and vulnerable to cancer.

The female hormone estrogen is widely recognised as carcinogen because of its ability to stimulate cell division. Cell division gone wrong equals cancer.

In the ideal environment of a healthy pregnancy, estrogen does its job of preparing the woman’s body for motherhood – for breastfeeding her infant. The estrogen stimulates the development of breast tissue clusters, or “lobules”. Over the term of the pregnancy, the hormones increase the number of lobules in the breasts and then stabilise them from a basic, less stable state (known as “type 1” or “type 2”) to a mature state (types 3 and 4). Mature breast tissue is less vulnerable to the nasty side of estrogen: its potential to cause cancer.

When breast development during pregnancy is interrupted for any reason (late miscarriage, very premature delivery or induced abortion), the breasts are left only partially transformed, leaving more unstable tissue than before. The vulnerable breast tissue leaves the woman at heightened risk of breast cancer when she comes into contact with estrogen again.

Patrick S. Carroll, Jean S. Utshudiema, Julian Rodrigues. The British Breast Cancer Epidemic: Trends, Patterns, Risk Factors, and Forecasting. Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons, 2017; 22(1):8-15.

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