Truthiness

A new study, whose findings were released today, provides further evidence to suggest that there is no link between induced abortion and breast cancer.

A 2003 international expert panel convened by the National Cancer Institute reviewed and assessed research regarding reproductive events and the risk of breast cancer, and concluded that based on existing evidence, induced abortion is not associated with an increased risk of breast cancer. “The data from the NHSII provide further evidence of a lack of an important overall association between induced or spontaneous abortions and risk of breast cancer,â€? the authors conclude. “Among this predominantly pre-menopausal population, neither induced nor spontaneous abortion was associated with the incidence of breast cancer.â€?

Now, before any one decides to go there – even if induced abortion increased the risk of breast cancer, it is not a reason to ban the procedure. The only issue is ensuring that women are made aware of all risks involved with any medical procedure.

But lying to women is not on. This is just the latest piece of research to suggest that there is no link. Even anti-choicers themselves implicitly accept that there is no proven link when on rare occasions they decide to use language more carefully. For example, Babette Francis (pdf) on the correlation:

Pregnancy Counselling Services have a duty to inform of the many studies showing early childbirth, breastfeeding and having many children children reduces breast cancer risk, and that an unplanned pregnancy will not kill a woman but that breast cancer is the greatest cause of mortality in pre-menopausal women (other than road accidents) and the third major cause of death in post menopausal women.

This is (sort of) what the latest research suggests also:

Women younger than age 35 who carry a pregnancy to term appear to have a reduced lifetime risk of breast cancer, according to background information in the article. Pregnancy may accelerate breast cell differentiation, the process by which cells take on specialized roles. “An incomplete pregnancy may not result in sufficient differentiation to counter the high levels of pregnancy hormones that may foster proliferation,” the rapid growth and division typical of cancer cells, the authors write. “However, these biological mechanisms are uncertain, and a prematurely terminated pregnancy may not affect breast cancer risk at all.”

Note that this is saying that women may have a reduced risk of breast cancer if they carry a pregnancy to term before the age of 35. While people like Babette Francis won’t want you to notice, this says nothing about having abortions. As the saying goes, there aren’t two kinds of women – they’re the same woman at different points in her life.

Yes, it’s possible that all the studies are wrong. But when it comes to women’s health, we need to rely on the best scientific data available. Not superstition, not propaganda, not faith-based preaching. Which is why the Senate should act to make it illegal for people to spread falsehoods and fear, regardless of whether they charge for the “service”.

And it’s why you should let them know that

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Posted in feminism, health, Medicine, politics, science
5 comments on “Truthiness
  1. Kim says:

    Well said, and thanks for the post, Anna.

  2. tigtog says:

    Nice catch on how the anti-abortion rhetoric skews the data of the cited studies, Anna. It doesn’t surprise me that they’ve misrepresented, but it’s interesting to see just where they’ve flipped the dishonesty switch.

  3. harry says:

    I find it funny that a whole bunch of the same people who say abortion causes cancer, prevent the anti-cancer HPV vaccine.

    So, are they for cancer, or against it?

  4. Helen says:

    As I have always understood it, giving birth and breastfeeding has been tentatively associated with lower rates of breast cancer. In other words, it seems to have positive benefits. But it can’t be portrayed as an argument against abortion, if you don’t have an abortion but still have no children you are equally at risk.
    For one thing, It would clearly be nonsensical to give birth to two or more children simply to decrease the odds so slightly. For another, a woman who has never given birth because she’s a lifelong virgin is at risk same as someone who may have used contraception and abortion. There goes your higher moral ground.

  5. Jane says:

    As far as mortality statistics go, it is far riskier to continue with a pregnancy than to terminate it. The risk of death from pregnancy and childbirth remains higher than the risk of miscarriage or induced abortion. I’m sure no-one would consider for a moment bringing this statistic up when a woman presents at her doctor’s surgery with a positive pregnancy test… If people were solely concerned about women’s safety and informed consent, surely such a scruple wouldn’t exist?

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