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Last Updated: Thursday, 22 January, 2004, 10:15 GMT
MPs launch abortion cancer probe
Ms Curtis-Thomas claims the risk is doubled after abortion
Three Labour MPs have sent their own survey to doctors around the UK in a bid to examine links between abortion and breast cancer.

However, a leading UK scientist says that a "haphazard" approach to research could produce misleading results.

One of them, Crosby MP Claire Curtis-Thomas, cited studies suggesting a link - and says women deserve the facts before undergoing abortions.

More than 175,000 terminations were carried out in the UK in 2002.

The highest rates were in the 20 to 24-year-old age group, with 30 abortions per 1,000 women.

A link between abortion and a slightly higher risk of breast cancer has been suggested by a number of studies, but many experts say that the evidence to support this is far from strong.

Medical data

The three MPs plan to write to cancer specialists asking them for data on the medical history of women diagnosed with breast cancer.

They hope that this will either prove or disprove the link with abortion.

The statistics aren't nearly as clear as Ms Curtis-Thomas would have us think
Professor Stuart Donnan, Manchester University
Ms Curtis-Thomas told the BBC that, in 37 studies carried out since the 1950s, 28 had returned a result which suggested an increased of breast cancer following abortion.

She said: "We want to see whether or not the UK experience either supports or refutes this evidence.

"The risk as far as we are able to see is approximately double, and there are a huge number of young women choosing abortion in this country."

The MP's claim of a doubled risk appears similar to the findings of a controversial study funded by the anti-abortion charity Life.

This study was condemned as "mischief making" by some cancer scientists.

Not convinced

Professor Stuart Donnan, from Manchester University, said: "The statistics aren't nearly as clear as Ms Curtis-Thomas would have us think."

He said that while some studies did show an increased risk, others actually suggested that abortion might cut the chances of developing breast cancer.

In addition, he said, the fact that no study had ever found a link between spontaneous miscarriage and breast cancer risk undermined the theory that disruption to hormone levels was the mechanism behind any increase.

He said: "If a survey is done properly I'm all in favour - but I don't think this is the right way to do it.

"If this done in a haphazard way - I know that Ms Curtis-Thomas is a scientist and knows that half-hearted research actually produces confusion. "

He said that the research community itself was looking at the issue.

The number of breast cancer cases is rising steadily - and doctors do not fully understand the reasons why.

One suggestion is that the modern trend of delaying motherhood is responsible for a slightly increased risk.

Christine Fogg, joint chief executive of the charity Breast Cancer Care said: "Current research has consistently failed to show any link between induced or spontaneous abortions and breast cancer risk.

"The women we talk to every day who are living with breast cancer face a phenomenal amount of distress and anxiety.

"Scare stories, like this one, that offer no real evidence, will exacerbate that anxiety for many women, by suggesting that their life choices and behaviours could be to blame for their illness.

"We want to reassure women that there is no proven link between abortion and the risk of breast cancer and that age remains the strongest risk factor for breast cancer."

Abortion 'should be made easier'
10 Dec 03  |  Health
Anger over abortion cancer study
05 Dec 01  |  Health

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