Fully Aware


October has been designated Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and greater awareness is certainly needed.

As Dr. Chris Kahlenborn notes: “Breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer in women worldwide and the most common cause of cancer death in U.S. women aged 20 to 59 years. Each year in the United States, approximately 211,000 women develop breast cancer and more than 47,000 (20%) do so before the age of 50 years. Approximately two in 15 American women are expected to develop breast cancer in their lifetime, and nearly 40,000 [U.S.] women die of the disease annually.”

Unfortunately, for some groups, when it comes to breast cancer, it is “Selective Awareness” month.

The National Cancer Institute (part of the National Institutes of Health) and some groups with an interest in “reproductive rights” or breast cancer research are keeping women in the dark about two risk factors for breast cancer: induced abortion and hormonal contraception.

The chief reason women are not being informed of these risks is not a lack of evidence. It is an epidemic of political correctness.

The American Cancer Society, the National Cancer Institute and the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation continue to deny the link between induced abortion and an increased risk of breast cancer. They make no effort to publicize (or they wholly ignore) the increased risk of breast cancer associated with oral contraceptive use.

“Thou shalt bear false witness concerning the risks of abortion and contraception” has become an article of faith for some cultural elites.

The Komen Foundation affiliates (organizers of the “Race for the Cure” cash cow) go the extra 5K: It brings in about $200 million a year, expending three-quarters of that on breast cancer research grants, education, screening and treatment.

Yet, while ostensibly striving to eradicate breast cancer, Komen affiliates give about a half million dollars each year to Planned Parenthood.

Komen’s president and board members, many of whom have extensive links to Planned Parenthood, seem oblivious to this manifest cooperation with evil and to the quintessential irony of giving generously to the nation’s leading abortion chain and cut-rate contraception source. How exactly will that reduce breast cancer rates?

Even medical textbooks are not immune to this truth.

In The Breast, Drs. Kirby Bland and Edward Copeland explain why having a full-term pregnancy early in one’s reproductive years — universally recognized as a factor decreasing breast cancer risk — is not listed in their table of preventive factors: “Unplanned early pregnancy and an average of more than two completed pregnancies per woman have undesirable social and ecological consequences.”

Here, questionable sociology and a zero population-growth agenda have replaced medical decision making and the need for informed consent.

Ladies, abortion may raise your risk of having subsequent preterm births (thus endangering those future children as well, from the complications of prematurity). It may also increase your risk of developing breast cancer (from losing the protective effect of an early full-term pregnancy, and from abortion as an independent risk factor). But don’t worry your pretty little head about that, because we all feel that the world is too crowded with children.

It’s also curious that groups like the National Cancer Institute readily draw attention to inconvenient facts, but then stop short of pointing out the inescapable conclusions to be drawn from those facts.

The Institute, for example, affirms the protective effect of an early first full-term pregnancy (FTTP): “The younger a woman has her first child, the lower her risk of developing breast cancer during her lifetime.” And, a woman “who has her first child after the age of 35 has approximately twice the risk of developing breast cancer as a woman who has a child before age 20.”

But they will not so much as hint that when abortion ends the first pregnancy prematurely, the protective effect is lost and the abortion itself further increases the breast cancer risk.

Surgeon and breast cancer specialist Dr. Angela Lanfranchi explains the biological basis for the abortion-breast cancer link:

“Before a woman’s FFTP, her breasts are composed of cancer-vulnerable Type 1 and 2 lobules (units of breast tissue) where ductal and lobular cancer start respectively. With increasing levels of pregnancy hormones estrogen and progesterone, the numbers of these cancer vulnerable lobules increase, thereby increasing the risk of breast cancer. However, by 32 weeks of pregnancy, the start of the third trimester, the pheromones hCG and hPL … made by the fetus result in the maturation of 85% of the breast to cancer resistant Type 4 lobules.”

Premature delivery before 32 weeks more than doubles breast cancer risk, as does induced abortion before 32 weeks — and abortion’s effect increases in proportion to the length of pregnancy before that abortion.

A final note on this link: Patrick Carroll, director of research at Britain’s Pension and Population Research Institute, has been able to forecast the future incidence of breast cancer in eight European countries with uncanny accuracy, based on projected abortion and fertility trends in those countries.

Is there a connection between oral contraceptives and increased breast cancer risk?

In the Handbook of Diseases of the Breast (2nd ed., 1998), J.M. Dixon et al calculate that oral contraceptives increase the risk of breast cancer by 30%. They then conclude that “considering the benefits of the pill,” this “slight” increase is not significant.

But women who develop breast cancer from this cause would probably consider it highly, even mortally, significant. The authors’ table of factors with “no effect” on breast cancer risk even includes oral contraceptives and induced abortion, contradicting their own estimate of a 30% higher risk.

This cavalier attitude is brazen in light of more than 20 years of well-documented research showing the carcinogenic effects of oral contraceptives. After a thorough review of the published scientific evidence, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research in Cancer concluded that combined estrogen-progestin pills, whether used for contraception or menopausal therapy, are Group 1 carcinogens in humans, i.e., they present “sufficient evidence” of being carcinogenic.

The 2006 edition of State of the Evidence (4th ed.) produced annually by the Breast Cancer Fund and Breast Cancer Action, summarizes more than 350 research findings on the connection between the environment and breast cancer. Under the heading “Evidence That Environmental Factors Cause Breast Cancer,” the report states:

“There is broad agreement that exposure over time to natural estrogens in the body increases the risk of breast cancer. Hormone-replacement therapy (HRT) and hormones in oral contraceptives … also increase this risk. The National Toxicology Program now lists steroidal estrogens (the natural chemical form of estrogen) as known human carcinogens.”

By contrast with the shroud of secrecy surrounding breast cancer risks from oral contraceptive use, the risks involved in hormone replacement therapy are openly acknowledged. Britain’s large-scale Million Women Study found: “Use of HRT by women ages 50 to 64 in the U.K. over the past decade has resulted in an estimated 20,000 extra breast cancers, 15,000 of them associated with estrogen-progestin combination; the extra deaths cannot yet be reliably estimated.”

Another large study assessing hormone replacement therapy and breast cancer risk, the Women’s Health Initiative, enrolled 16,000 women ages 50 to 79. Half took an estrogen-progestin pill (Prempro) and half a placebo.

The study had to be halted after five years because researchers estimated a 26% increase in the relative risk of breast cancer from the drug. But during the course of the study, 42% of the participants withdrew.

When “researchers reanalyzed the data based on the number of women actually treated with hormone replacement therapy, the relative risk of breast cancer increased from 26% to 49%.” The publicity surrounding these findings prompted a sharp drop (34%) in hormone replacement therapy use between 2002 and 2003. Age-adjusted breast cancer rates dropped 6.7% in 2003.

Prescriptions in the United States for the two most commonly prescribed forms of hormone replacement therapy dropped from 61 million in 2001 to 21 million in 2004. This corresponded to an 8.6% decrease in annual age-adjusted incidence of breast cancer.

The decrease occurred only in women age 50 and older. And the increased risk of developing breast cancer from oral contraceptive use may be even greater than the risk associated with hormone replacement therapy use.

The American Medical Association’s Essential Guide to Menopause (1998) advises women that “amounts of estrogen in the low-dose pill are actually more potent than the dose commonly used for HRT after menopause.”

In a meta-analysis of 39 studies, Kahlenborn et al found a 44% increased risk of developing breast cancer among parous women [those who had given birth] who used oral contraceptives before their first full-term pregnancy, and a 52% increased risk among those using oral contraceptives for four or more years beforehand.

With 1.3 million annual abortions in the United States and tens of millions of women using oral contraceptives before having their first child, their silence and denials are shameful. To echo a recent statement by Pope Benedict XVI: “We need truth!”

Susan Wills is associate director

 for education for the U.S. bishops’

Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities.