an After abortion

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Friday, October 22, 2004

Shredding The Myths about Abortion’s “Benefits” to Women

Myth #4 (of 15), another Q&A from Planned Parenthood’s webpage, “Choosing Abortion - Questions And Answers:”

4. “Does abortion cause breast cancer? No.”
Technically, the question as asked is misleading. A good friend here in Connecticut, Charnette Messe, is an African-American woman who had an abortion at age 20, and was diagnosed with BC at 31. She delayed treatment as she was pregnant with another child. She was on Oprah Winfrey’s show about this. I mentioned her in this post recently, and this discussion was first posted here.

Charnette believes that her abortion is the reason she developed BC at such a young age.

There are 6 medical/research groups who have found the research proving this to be plausible:
  1. Association of American Physicians and Surgeons;
  2. The Breast Cancer Prevention Institute;
  3. American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists;
  4. National Physicians Center for Family Resources;
  5. The Polycarp Research Institute; and
  6. the Catholic Medical Association.
The Coalition on Abortion/Breast Cancer is an excellent single source for the total picture on breast cancer and abortion research.

Who else says that abortion can increase breast cancer risk? (all these are found at the Coalition website just mentioned):
1. 28 out of 37 worldwide research studies (16 statistically significant for increased risk)
2. 13 out of 15 American studies (8 statistically significant)
3. A 1996 American Cancer Society pamphlet “Cancer Facts and Figures”
4. Phyllis Wingo (a CDC researcher prior to working for American Cancer Society and doing an about-face), and 3 other epidemiologists (including Bruce Stadel, National Institutes of Health)
5. Dr. Clark Heath, when he was a Vice President for the American Cancer Society.
6. Harvard’s Dr. Brian MacMahon, Dr. Dimitrios Trichopoulos, et al., in the International Journal of Cancer
7. Dr. Lynn Rosenberg, a Boston University Medical School epidemiologist
8. Dr. Angela Lanfranchi, M.D., F.A.C.S., breast cancer surgeon and Clinical Assistant Professor of Surgery, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, NJ.

While abortion may not have truly been proven to be a cause of breast cancer, the statistics cannot be ignored:
“During the period from 1973 through 1998, female breast cancer incidence rates increased by more than 40%, from 82.6 in 1973 to 118.1 in 1998.”
1973, the year of Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton. This is from the Journal of National Cancer Insitute, “Annual report to the nation on the status of cancer (1973 through 1998), featuring cancers with recent increasing trends.” [Howe HL, Wingo PA, Thun MJ, Ries LA, Rosenberg HM, Feigal EG, Edwards BK. J Natl Cancer Inst. 2001 Jun 6;93(11):824-42.]

The report also concluded that, “Overall cancer incidence and death rates continued to decline in the United States.” Reuters also reported this on June 6, 2001, in their article, “Breast Cancer Numbers Up, But US Cancer Deaths Drop," although it isn’t available on their website, it seems.

This graph showing breast cancer’s rise since 1973, compared to all other cancers, is a must-see. The age-adjusted cancer incidence rate, per 100,000 population per year, for breast cancer went from 100 cases per 100,000 per year in 1973, up to about 144 per 100,000 per year in 1998, and was fairly constant at 140 to 144 per 100,000 each year from 1987 through 1998.

However, there are some problems with all of these numbers: "Cancer incidence has been monitored since 1973 [Ed. note: only since then) by the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) Program of the National Cancer Institute (NCI)." Mortality data without incidence data does not give the whole picture of a disease's prevalence prior to 1973.

Another problem with the above data is the degree of accurate representation. For example, the above new diagnosis, trend analysis and incidence rates are gleaned from one or more of the following:
The 2001 U.S. incidence rate for all females with breast cancer was 127 cases per 100,000 people; the 2000 rate was 129, the 1999 rate was 132.

But in all three years, lung cancer killed about 14 more women per 100,000 population than breast cancer did.

These two charts, for some reason I can’t determine, show slightly different numbers with supposedly the same 2001 SEER data. This first chart shows that the breast cancer incidence rates (when age-adjusted to the US standard population in either 1970 or 2000) were 116 per 100,000 in 1970 and 136 incidences in 2000. The second one shows that for the years from 1994 and 1998, incidence was 157 per 100,000.

What I also find interesting in this chart is that the incidences of colon-rectal and lung cancers in women from 1970 to 2000 rose at higher rates than that of breast cancer. In fact, breast cancer incidence rates rose more slowly than every other cancer’s rate except prostate cancer. It would seem to me that if “increased screening and early detection” really were the primary explanations for increased incidences of breast cancer, as the JNCI annual report states, then these breast cancer rates would have increased at least as much if not more than the incidence rates of colon-rectal, lung and other cancers.

I could not find any data prior to 1973 on incidence rates, only on mortality. This chart shows that while incidences of all cancers rose dramatically (from 380 per 100,000 to 475, a 25% increase), the number of cancer deaths stayed flat at about 200 per 100,000. Much of this can probably be attributed to better prevention campaigns, earlier screening and advanced treatments for some cancers.

This map shows the breast cancer mortality rates among white U.S. women aged 20-49 from 1950 through 1969. The highest rates were in the Northeast, upper Midwest and parts of California, ranging from 23 to 35 deaths per 100,000 population. Most of the South had rates between 13 and 22 per 100,000. The U.S. average was 14.

From 1970 to 1994, the breast cancer death rate for white women aged 20-49 was between 25 and 33 in the same high-end regions, and rose to between 15 and 25 for the same low-end regions. The U.S. average was 12.

For black women from 1970 to 1994, the BC death rates were between 28 and 78 per 100,000 in the worst regions, and between 17 and 27 per 100,000 in the South. There was no incidence data available for black women prior to 1970.

The latest breast cancer mortality data I could find (for 2001) for all U.S. women showed 26 deaths per 100,000, about the same as it was in the 2 years prior.

The medical textbook Cancer Medicine 6 [Section 4: Cancer Epidemiology; “an all-inclusive, multidisciplinary text covering the ever-widening sphere of current cancer knowledge and clinical practice; an approved publication of the American Cancer Society,” sixth edition, primary editors/authors Holland, Frei; publisher BC Decker] references the above JNCI summary from 2001 and also states:

"In women age 20 to 39 and 40 to 59 years, breast cancer is the most common fatal cancer."
I wanted to know if this was new news or not and was it generalized for all women of all ages. As I researched, it became obvious it’s a poorly worded statement. It’s unclear if they’re referring to the commonness (number of cases) or the resulting deaths as what is considered “common.”

According to this graphing site, among white females aged 20 to 49 in the years 1950 to 1969, breast cancer killed 14.25 per 100,000 population and appears to have been the most common fatal cancer in this age group anyway. The mortality rate for this group actually went down to 12 from 1970 to 1994. Among black females, the only data available for breast cancer mortality starts in the period 1970 to 1994 (17 deaths per 100,000).

Digging deeper, the site shows that for white women aged 20-49 and 50 to 74 during 1950 to 1969, the breast cancer mortality rate was highest among all cancers as expected (14 and 76 respectively; no data existed for black women in that timeframe). However, from 1970 to 1994, breast cancer remained the most fatal cancer only to both white and black women aged 20-49. Lung cancer became the most fatal cancer for women aged 50-74 (82 deaths per 100,000 population for whites vs. 81 for breast cancer), while for black women aged 50-74 from 1970-1994, the mortality rates for breast cancer and lung cancer were virtually the same (82 deaths per 100,000 population).

But getting out of the stats books (finally!) and back to the disagreements, the American Cancer Society, National Cancer Institute and others still rely on the 1997 Melbye (or Danish) study to say that the ABC link is false, although that study was severely criticized at least twice in the New England Journal of Medicine, for its errors of misclassification and data adjustment. [Joel Brind & Vernon Chinchilli, Letter, ”Induced Abortion and the Risk of Breast Cancer,” 336 New England Journal of Medicine (1997) 1834-35] and by Katrina Armstrong in February of 2000, [Armstrong (2000) NEJM 342:564-71].

Here are some objections to Melbye:
  1. "Melbye misclassified 60,000 women who'd had abortions as not having had them;
  2. They studied non-abortive women more than twice as long as the women who had abortions;
  3. They compared a smaller group of younger women (280,691) who had had abortions to more than four times as many older women (1,248,541) who hadn't had abortions.”
The problem with the last two is that, of course, they’ll find more BC in older women or women who’ve been studied longer: those women have a greater chance of developing it, according to the historical statistics!

Most statistics say that breast carcinoma typically affects women over 35, and that 7-12% of American women can expect to have it by the age of 60 to 70. [Even the website says this: "relatively few women under 35 have breast cancer."]

But listen to what this quote doesn't say: : The University of Rochester Medical Center says
"Studies have shown that more than 43% of newly diagnosed breast cancers occur in women 65 or older.”
Translated, that means that about a majority--56%--of new breast cancers now occur in women under 65.

It gets worse. In January 2002, a study on breast cancer in young women at the website found that a full 60.32% of women diagnosed with breast cancer received that diagnosis when they were between 17 and 35 years of age, AND the average age at diagnosis was 33 years. So instead of the 56% stated by the University of Rochester Medical Center, it appears that about 75% or so of women under 65 first develop BC now.

TABLE I: Age at diagnosis:
17 & Below: 6 [.30%]
18 to 25: 105 [5.23%]
26 to 34: 1,099 [54.79%]
35 and Up: 757 [37.74%]
No answer: 39 [1.94%]

The 2000 U.S. Census estimates that there are about 11,000 new cases each year in women under 40. Admittedly a small number compared to totals but still, I'd hate to have been one of the 11,000 yearly, as Charnette is.

A Feb. 2003 Johns Hopkins Breast Center medical research website went even further, saying that:
“While the majority of breast cancer affects women over the age of 50, extremely malignant forms tend to afflict women under age 40 more commonly."
I don’t have 40- or 50-year-old data on BC, but it seems clear that before 1973, BC just didn’t happen to many women between the ages of 18 and 50.

Maybe it’s not solely causal, but it’s more than coincidental.

That Johns Hopkins site also says:
“Among women under 35, African-American and Hispanic women are disproportionately affected by breast cancer...[they] had a greater proportion of large tumors and more frequently had lymph node involvement, which indicates worse disease.”
Combine that news with this quote by Day Gardner, director of Black Americans for Life, in Feb. 2004:
“Abortion is the #1 killer of African Americans...1,200 Black babies [daily]. Black women have abortions at a rate that is 3 times that of Caucasian women. African-Americans represent 13% of our population, yet African-American women have over 35% of all abortions here.”
Is it any wonder that more black women are being diagnosed at younger ages and with more malignant forms of BC? My friend Charnette knows it; she’s living it.

Lastly, in mid-September [2004], Eve Sanchez Silver resigned her position as a charter member of The Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation's National Hispanic/Latina Advisory Council. She had learned “that Komen's affiliates have helped fund Planned Parenthood.” She said, “It makes me wonder what other abortion related agendas Komen may be supporting…Is one hand washing the other?”

"Kristin Kelly, Komen’s former P.R. Manager, reported that their affiliates had given 21 grants to their local Planned Parenthood chapters totaling more than $475,000.”

I’m left with just one question: if we go on the Komen “Run For The Cure” or the ACS “Relay For Life,” how much of what we give helps Planned Parenthood pay for offices and workers to dispense 633,756 Morning After Pills each year, or to help them perform 227,385 abortions? (Those were the numbers in their own 2002-03 Annual Report, and that was a 6% increase over 2001, so maybe by now, it's 255,490 abortions per year, if that rate kept up these last two years.)

Abortion does not "cause" breast cancer, and anyone who says so is wrong. But it does drastically worsen the risk of developing it.

Myth #5 to be shredded tomorrow. I’m posting one a day every day from Oct. 19 through Election Day. Prior myths shredded can be found as follows:
#1, #2, #3.

(If anyone wishes to receive an emailed MSWORD document of the talk in its entirety, please just email me (see above right corner of blog).)

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