Academic journal article Issues in Law & Medicine

The Science, Studies and Sociology of the Abortion Breast Cancer Link*

Academic journal article Issues in Law & Medicine

The Science, Studies and Sociology of the Abortion Breast Cancer Link*

Article excerpt

Abortion is a causal factor in the development of breast cancer in the same way cigarettes cause lung cancer. Both put the users at higher risk, even though the majority will not be affected. Like cigarettes, which cause lung cancer to form in 15% of those who smoke, abortion causes breast cancer in about 5% of women who have an abortion. This results in approximately 10,000 cases of breast cancer attributable to abortion a year, approximately the same number as is caused by the inheritable BRCA gene. The vast majority of smokers never get lung cancer yet we tell the public not to smoke. Women considering abortion need to know about the abortion breast cancer link (ABC link) so they can give an informed decision. Women who have had an abortion need to know they are at higher risk of showing symptoms of the disease earlier than other women so that they can be screened for breast cancer at an appropriate age.

This article will explain the breast physiology and the epidemiologic criteria supporting the ABC link and the sociologic factors which cause this risk to remain largely unknown to both medical professionals and the public.

Breast Cancer in U.S. Women

Only 15% of women with breast cancer have a family history of the disease. At most, 10% of women with breast cancer have inherited a faulty gene such as the BRCA gene. Yet over the last 30 years, the number of new cases of breast cancer has increased by 40%. Most of this increase has occurred in the Roe v. Wade generation, i.e. those women of reproductive age when the ruling was made in 1973. These women were young during the time of the "Women's Lib" movement and the "sexual revolution." Many delayed childbearing well into their thirties to pursue higher education and a career, widely using "the pill" so that sexual activity need not be postponed until marriage. When the pill failed, abortion became the frequently chosen option. Abortion is a consequence of equality in pursuing the sexual license that men have traditionally enjoyed by being free of the worry of becoming pregnant. The tobacco industry's ad told us, "You've come along way baby," and we have. Lung cancer rates were much higher in men than in women in the 70s; now we are nearly equal. The benzopyrenes in cigarette smoke not only increased lung cancer but also the incidence of cervical and breast cancer in women. The childless rate for women increased from 10% to 18% by the year 2000. Delayed child bearing, never having children, taking "the pill" and abortion as well as cigarettes are all well established risk factors for breast cancer, and can account for this increased incidence.

Relative Risk

Risk can be expressed in many ways. Relative risk (RR) is a useful way to compare different factors and is derived from epidemiologic studies. A RR of 1.0 means that factor is neutral or has no effect on risk. A RR of less than 1.0 means that a factor causes a decrease in risk. For example, a factor with a RR of .5 means that factor reduces risk by 50%. A RR over 1 means that factor increases risk. For example, 1.5 means 50% increase in risk and RR 2.0 means 100% increase in risk. Most women who hear that a risk factor has caused them to be at 100% increased risk think that this means they are 100% certain to get the disease. However, in regards to breast cancer, if a woman has no risk factors she has only a 3.3% risk of developing breast cancer. A factor which then increases her risk 100% causes her to have a 6.6% chance of developing cancer.

Cumulative Lifetime Risk

Many women have been alarmed by the widespread use of the statistic, cumulative lifetime risk of breast cancer. This is a statistically derived number that assumes all women will live to the age of 82 and not die of other causes before then. In 1975 the risk was one in 12 women would develop breast cancer. In 2004 that risk increased to one in seven, reflecting the increase in incidence of breast cancer over the last 30 years. …

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