OnLine Opinion 12 August 2014
The various credentialed purveyors of health information, such as the Australian Medical Association, the World Health Organisation, the US National Cancer Institute and the Cancer Councils still maintain that there is no link between abortion and breast cancer (ABC link), this despite the fact that this past February, a systematic review and meta-analysis of the ABC link was published in the prestigious international journal Cancer Causes and Control. The study by Yubei Huang et. al of the Tianjin Medical University in China reviewed and compiled the results of 36 studies from mainland China. Reporting an overall, statistically significant risk increase of 44% (odds ratio or OR = 1.44) for women who’ve had one or more induced abortions, the Huang study confirmed the results I and my co-authors from Penn State Medical College had reported in 1996 in the British Medical Association’s epidemiology journal.
Importantly, the Huang study confirmed the ABC link in a completely different population in a different time frame, as our original 1996 meta-analysis compiled worldwide studies between 1957 and 1996. The Huang meta-analysis also showed a clear dose effect, i.e., women with two or more abortions showed a risk increase of 76%, and those with three or more abortions showed a risk increase of 89%. In epidemiology, when increased exposure to the putative risk factor results in a higher risk increase, the factor (abortion in this case) is more likely to be an actual cause of the disease in question (breast cancer in this case).
To those of us who have been studying the ABC link for years, the growing breast cancer epidemic in communist China was an entirely predictable result of the “one-child policy”. But the aggressive promotion of abortion has hardly been limited to China, and a veritable tsunami of peer-reviewed, published reports of the predictable epidemic elsewhere is starting to surface from all over Asia. In South Asia alone, at least a dozen studies have appeared (that I know about) just since 2008: nine in India and one each in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.
In addition to adding confirmation upon confirmation of the ABC link, the recent South Asian studies provide a different perspective. It is not because of ethnic differences between South Asians and East Asians or Caucasians: The more than half century of research establishing the ABC link provides ample proof that when it comes to breast cancer risk factor, women are women, no matter their ethnicity. But there is a big difference in the baseline lifestyle of Asian women, and this makes a huge difference. Why?
Breast cancer is a multifactorial disease, with many risk factors. Most are related to reproduction and/or female reproductive hormones. Consequently, in the West (like the US), the baseline lifetime risk of breast cancer is high (around 10%) without considering abortion at all. That’s because, long before abortion’s legalization (and resulting high prevalence), women were taking contraceptive steroids (“the pill”), waiting longer to bear children, having fewer of them, not breast feeding them, and were themselves drinking alcoholic beverages and smoking cigarettes. All of these increase the risk of breast cancer. Add abortion, and the lifetime risk goes up about 30%, from about 10% to about 13%. In epidemiological terms, that is expressed as a relative risk (typically expressed statistically as an odds ratio or a hazard ratio) of 1.3. (I.e., a 30% increased risk; the overall average relative risk we reported in our 1996 review.)
About the Author
Dr. Joel Brind is a professor of biology and endocrinology at Baruch College, City University of New York since 1986, a research biochemist since 1981, and CEO of Natural Food Science, a maker of glycine supplement products founded in 2010.