Monday, July 26, 2010

NARAL Offers Outdated Abortion/Breast Cancer Link Information

(A version of our article appeared in today's California Catholic Daily)

NARAL Pro-Choice California has launched an effort to make it more difficult for crisis pregnancy centers to operate in the state of California. The first shot in this battle was the release of a 20-page booklet titled “Unmasking Fake Clinics. The Truth About Crisis Pregnancy Centers in California.” The purpose of the booklet is given on page 15: “In 2011, NARAL Pro-Choice California Foundation will work with local elected officials to enact a disclaimer bill similar to that in Baltimore. The health of California women and their families depends on it.”

While NARAL claims that crisis pregnancy centers give deceptive information, and professes an interest in women’s health, in at least one glaring instance that appears to be the opposite of the truth. NARAL cites, as an example of allegedly “deceptive” information, the assertion by some crisis pregnancy centers that there is a link between breast cancer and abortion. In response, NARAL flatly states “The link between abortion and breast cancer has been exhaustively investigated and it is the well established conclusion of the National Cancer Institute that abortion has no effect on a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer.”

That categorical statement relies solely on the National Cancer Institute’s study “Summary Report: Early Reproductive Events and Breast Cancer Workshop.” But that report was published in 2003, and is at odds with more up-to-date science. Over the past 16 months, independent studies in Turkey, China, Sri Lanka, and Seattle have all concluded that there is indeed an increased risk for breast cancer in post-abortive women. All four studies were published in significant professional medical journals.

The Chinese study “A case-control study of reproductive factors associated with subtypes of breast cancer in Northeast China,” was published in the Journal of Medical Oncology on September 23, 2009. The study’s abstract concluded: “Breastfeeding protected parous women from any subtype of breast cancer. Postmenopause and spontaneous abortion were inversely associated with the risk of luminal tumors. By contrast, multiparity, family history of breast cancer and induced abortion increased the risk of breast cancer.”

The Turkish study “Breast cancer risk factors in Turkish women – a University Hospital based nested case control study” was published on April 8, 2009 in the World Journal of Surgical Oncology. It concluded: “These findings suggest that age and induced abortion were found to be significantly associated with increased breast cancer risk whereas oral contraceptive use was observed to be associated with decreased breast cancer risk among Turkish women in Istanbul.”

The Sri Lankan study “Prolonged breastfeeding reduces risk of breast cancer in Sri Lankan women: a case-control study” was published in Cancer Epidemiology in June 2010. It concluded, in part: “The significant factors associated with increased risk of breast cancer were: post-menopausal women (OR=1.74; 95%CI=1.01, 3.01); having an abortion in the past (OR=3.42; 95%CI=1.75, 6.66) and exposure to passive smoking (OR=2.96, 95%CI=1.53, 5.75).” In other words, as the Daily Mail UK reported, although the study was focused on the association between the duration of breastfeeding and the risk of breast cancer, other risk factors were discovered, and “the highest of the reported risk factors was abortion.”

The Seattle study “Risk Factors for Triple-Negative Breast Cancer in Women Under Age 45” was published in April 2009 in Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers and Prevention. The study concluded, in part: “In analyses of all 897 breast cancer cases (subtypes combined), the multivariate-adjusted odds ratios for examined risk factors were consistent with the effects observed in prior studies of younger women . Specifically, older age, family history of breast cancer, earlier menarche age, induced abortion, and OC (oral contraceptive) use were associated with an increased risk of breast cancer.”

The Seattle study was remarkable not just for its conclusion, but because of the identity of one of the authors, Dr. Louise A. Brinton, MPH, Ph. D. It so happens that Dr. Brinton works for the National Cancer Institute and was one of the organizers of the NCI’s 2003 workshop that produced the study that NARAL cites as the sole authority for their sweeping claim of no abortion/breast cancer link. Unfortunately for NARAL, while Dr. Brinton may have held that opinion in 2003, she no longer does. From the Daily Mail UK “Earlier this year, Dr Louise Brinton, a senior researcher with the U.S. National Cancer Institute who did not accept the link, reversed her position to say she was now convinced abortion increased the risk of breast cancer by about 40 per cent.”

Unlike Planned Parenthood, NARAL does not even seriously pretend to be interested in women’s health, only in electing pro-abortion politicians and passing pro-abortion legislation. Their mission statement reads: “NARAL Pro-Choice California is the political arm of the pro-choice movement. We educate voters about reproductive rights in California. We provide resources and information for voters who want to support pro-choice legislation and elect pro-choice legislators.”

Still, even recognizing that they have no professional interest in the health of women, one would hope that common humanity would cause NARAL to avoid publishing a conclusion that could be dangerous if not fatal to women—a conclusion that has now been abandoned by one of its major proponents.

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