Abortion and the Risk of Breast Cancer

Self examination for breast cancerDoes having an abortion increase the risk of breast cancer? In a word; No.

That myth has circulated for years by the Pro-Life camp. It is simply not true, and that’s not my personal opinion. Anti-abortion groups are the only ones actually telling women to avoid abortion as a means of protecting against breast cancer. That fact that there is no link between abortion and breast cancer is based on medical and scientific research:

Since 1994, several exhaustive studies have found no tie between abortion and breast cancer. A 30-year Swedish study of 49,000 women indicated no link between abortion and breast cancer. Furthermore, the Swedish study did not suffer from an inaccurate reporting of medical histories because it was based on a national medical registry in Sweden and not based on interviews.

In February 2003, the The National Cancer Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health of the United States Department of Health and Human Services, is the Federal Government’s principal agency for cancer research. NCI conducts, coordinates, and funds cancer research, training, health information dissemination, and other programs with respect to the cause, diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of cancer. National Cancer Institute (NCI) convened a workshop of over 100 of the world’s leading experts who study pregnancy and breast cancer risk. Workshop participants reviewed existing population-based, clinical, and animal studies on the relationship between pregnancy and breast cancer risk, including studies of induced and spontaneous abortions. They concluded that having an abortion or miscarriage does not increase a woman’s subsequent risk of developing breast cancer. A summary of their findings, titled Summary Report: Early Reproductive Events and Breast Cancer Workshop, can be found at http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/ere-workshop-report.

From Cancer.org:

Before 1973, induced abortions were illegal in much of the United States. So when researchers asked a woman about past pregnancies, she may not have felt safe saying that she had an illegal abortion. Even though abortion is now legal, it is still a very personal, private matter that many women do not like to talk about.

Studies have also shown that healthy women are less likely to report that they have had induced abortions. In contrast, women with breast cancer are more likely to accurately report their reproductive histories. This may be because they are searching their memories for anything that may be linked to the cancer.

The likelihood that women who have breast cancer will give a more complete account of their abortions than women who do not have breast cancer is an example of recall bias. Recall bias like this can sometimes cause studies to find links that may not exist.

Conclusion

The topic of abortion and breast cancer highlights many of the most challenging aspects of studies of people and how those studies do or do not translate into public health guidelines. The issue of abortion generates passionate viewpoints in many people. Breast cancer is the most common cancer, and is the second leading cancer killer in women. Still, the public is not well-served by false alarms. At this time, the scientific evidence does not support the notion that abortion of any kind raises the risk of breast cancer.

Science trumps ideology. At least for rational minds it does. However, there’s nothing “rational” about the countless number of new laws being passed all over the country regarding women’s reproductive rights. In fact, the entire focus in Congress since 2010 has been nothing but abortion and the prevention of federal funding for abortion — as if such funding even existed. The GOP wants Planned Parenthood defunded because they believe, for whatever reason, that ALL Planned Parenthood does is perform abortions. Of course, their ultimate goal is to over-turn Roe v. Wade.