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Wednesday, 5 December, 2001, 00:34 GMT
Anger over abortion cancer study
A woman undergoing a mammogram
A woman undergoing a mammogram
A study claiming women who have an abortion could double their chance of developing breast cancer has been attacked by experts.

The study was funded by the pro-life charity LIFE, and indicated that over the next 26 years, up to 50% of breast cancer cases in England and Wales could be "attributable to abortion".

But the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) said there was no new evidence of a link, and accused LIFE of "mischief-making".

Scientists behind the study, carried out by independent statisticians from the Populations and Pensions Research Institution, say the connection could be due to oestrogen levels rising significantly during the first three months of pregnancy.


No causal link between abortion and breast cancer has been proven

Professor Allan Templeton, RCOG

Professor Allan Templeton of the RCOG said he knew of no new evidence proving a causal link between abortion and breast cancer.

"LIFE are mischief making and we do not support the sensational reporting of this study which serves no other function than causing anxiety amongst women.

"We reiterate our advice to women that no causal link between abortion and breast cancer has been proven and that this report should not influence women in making decisions about abortion at difficult times in their life."

Oestrogen connection

The research, led by Patrick Carroll, looked at breast cancer and abortion rates in Britain, Finland, Sweden and the Czech Republic.

It made a direct statistical link between rising cases of breast cancer and an increase in abortion rates since it was legalised.

It said the total number of breast cancer cases was expected to more than double from 35,110 in 1997 to 77,000 in 2023, "largely" because of abortions carried out on women who have not yet had a baby.

He said: "Breast cancer incidence has risen ... in parallel with rising abortion rates. There is no doubt there is a causal relationship."


Unless there is a major advance in the near future in prevention we predict that by 2003 over 360,000 women may have developed breast cancer directly attributable to abortion

Professor Jack Scarisbrick, LIFE
He estimated up to 50% of cases could be attributable to abortion."

Launching the research, Professor Joel Brind, director of the Breast Cancer Prevention Institute in New York, said the increase in oestrogen levels of around 2000% during the first three months of a pregnancy was the most likely way risk was increased in women who had an abortion.

He added: "Women are at risk and they do not really know about it. They certainly don't seem to be finding out about it from the NHS.

LIFE estimates that by the end of 2001, at least 22,000 women in England and Wales could have developed breast cancer as a direct result of having had abortions carried out under the 1967 Act.

They say this means around about 5,500 women could have died or will die as a direct result.

"Unless there is a major advance in the near future in prevention we predict that by 2003 over 360,000 women may have developed breast cancer directly attributable to abortion. Most of their abortions have already taken place," said Professor Jack Scarisbrick of LIFE.

Link questioned

Ann Furedi, spokeswoman for the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS), a pro-choice organisation, said 'better quality studies' suggested there is no link.

"All studies like this are likely to do to is increase women's anxiety and guilt, particularly those suffering from breast cancer.

"LIFE are trying to exploit health concerns for their own moral and political reasons. It really is very manipulative and inexcusable."

BPAS published a survey this week showing 65% backed a woman's right to terminate a pregnancy.

Delyth Morgan, chief executive of Breakthrough Breast Cancer, said: "Breast cancer should not be used as a political football when women's health is the most important thing."

See also:

04 Nov 01 | Health
Abortion services 'failing'
06 Dec 01 | Health
Abortion services 'need overhaul'
13 May 01 | Health
Men's abortion leaflet launched
29 Aug 00 | Health
'Abortion causes foetal pain'
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