A scientific review of current knowledge of breast physiology, as well as epidemiological and experimental research, has found further evidence that a significant link exists between abortion and breast cancer.
The research conducted by Dr. Angela Lanfranchi and Patrick Fagan, Ph.D., focuses on changes in breast physiology due to pregnancy, and reviews 72 epidemiological studies that show how abortion impedes the natural maturation process of milk glands in the breast such that there is a significantly greater probability that breast cancer will develop later in the woman's life.
Lanfranchi, a breast surgical oncologist and co-founder of the Breast Cancer Prevention Institute, is clinical assistant professor of surgery at the Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. Fagan is the director of the Marriage and Religion Research Institute.
The review, titled “Breast cancer and induced abortion: A comprehensive review of breast development and pathophysiology, the epidemiologic literature, and proposal for creation of databanks to elucidate all breast cancer risk factors,” was published in the peer-reviewed professional journal Issues in Law and Medicine.
In the review the authors explain that surging pregnancy hormones, mostly estrogen, stimulate breast growth during the first months of pregnancy, leaving the breasts with an increase in cancer-susceptible Type 1 and Type 2 lobules, where most breast cancers are known to originate.
However, if the mother carries her pregnancy to 32 weeks, her risk sharply declines because she has matured a sufficient number of lobules into permanently cancer-resistant Type 4 lobules, and she has acquired 90% of the risk reduction associated with a full term pregnancy.
The authors say this evidence explains why other well-accepted reproductive risk factors, such as childlessness, premature birth before 32 weeks and second trimester miscarriages, raise the risk of breast cancer in women who have experienced these situations.
The researchers note that a 2013 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found an alarming increase in “distant” breast cancer among women aged 25 to 39.
“Distant” breast cancer, they explain, is breast cancer that has metastasized “remote[ly]… [to the] bone, brain, lung, etc.”
The review found that this rise in breast cancer incidence amounted to an increase of 2 percent per year from 1976 to 2009, and persisted across three different sets of National Cancer Institute data, which shows invasive breast cancer incidence was 24 percent higher in 2007 than in 1976, and almost 40 percent higher at its peak in 1999 than in 1976.
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“The study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association makes little attempt to empirically determine the source of this increase in breast cancer incidence among younger women,” the authors point out. “However, that the increase is occurring is reason enough to study more carefully the increased vulnerability to breast cancer that we think induced abortion confers on women.”
Dr. Lanfranchi mentions that the National Cancer Institute concluded after its 2003 workshop that abortion is not associated with breast cancer, but she and Fagan say the NCI’s conclusion contradicts not only the epidemiological evidence of a link, but also accepted reproductive risks for breast cancer listed in standard texts, including premature birth before 32 weeks gestation, delayed first full-term pregnancy, and childlessness.
The authors analyzed the 72 epidemiological studies using guidelines that establish nine criteria that help determine whether a cause-effect relationship exists between a potential risk factor and a disease.
After demonstrating that all nine criteria were met in the epidemiological evidence, Lanfranchi and Fagan stated: “We see that many studies of induced abortion demonstrate significant associations, across multiple cultures and with some apparent specificity of cause, such as hormone exposure. The association manifests itself in the appropriate order, demonstrates a dose effect, is biologically plausible and coherent with existing science and has been demonstrated by analogy.”
In order to expand knowledge of the abortion/breast cancer link, the authors recommend collecting data concerning women’s reproductive, hormonal, and breast histories though approved mammography centers, the establishment of a tissue bank of biopsied breast cancer tissue, and the development of a research data network that would permit the elimination of major gaps in the research literature.
“It is the authors’ hope,” Drs. Lanfranchi and Fagan conclude, “that through this rigorously referenced review, analysis, and proposal that medical science will be advanced and both medical professionals and the lay public will understand the risks contributing to the continued epidemic of breast cancer both here and abroad.”
The full text of the review is available here.