Coalition on Abortion/Breast Cancer

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The Chronicle of Philanthropy reported that the American Cancer Society is "more interested in accumulating wealth than in saving lives.". [Hall H, Williams G. "Professor vs. Cancer Society," p. 26, January 28, 1992]

"The American Cancer Society's reputation as a source of information for the public is just critical to our mission. We're not going to mislead people about this. We spend $100 million a year on research. We know what we're talking about. There is just no research that supports this claim." [Mary Coyne, a board member of the Society's Texas division, discussing the abortion-breast cancer link with L.A. Times reporter Scott Gold, May 22, 2003]

"Breast cells have been hypothesized to be the most susceptible to transformation into malignant cells when breast tissue contains primarily rapidly growing and undifferentiated epithelial cells – i.e., during adolescence and pregnancy. . . . Some investigators have hypothesized that the termination of pregnancy in the first two trimesters may alter the carcinogenic potential of breast tissue by interrupting the complete differentiation of breast cells that occurs during full-term pregnancy and confers protection." Phyllis A. Wingo (American Cancer Society) (1997).

Table of Contents

 


Quotes from the Society's Officials

As a researcher for the Centers for Disease Control, Phyllis Wingo 
published a letter in a prestigious British journal called The Lancet (Feb. 22, 1986, p. 436), criticizing another group's suggestion that the increasing incidence of breast cancer among Swedish women was due to oral contraceptive use. She and three other prominent epidemiologists (including Bruce Stadel of the National Institutes of Health) wrote, "This reasoning overlooks the more likely role of other factors, especially induced abortion. Induced abortion before first term pregnancy increases the risk of breast cancer." 

This is a responsible, straightforward statement written at a time when 
there were only two published U.S. studies addressing the abortion-breast cancer link. [Pike et al (1981) Br J Cancer 43:72-6; and Brinton et al (1983) Br J Cancer 47:757-62].

Since becoming an American Cancer Society researcher, Phyllis Wingo has done an abrupt, politically-correct about-face. She conducted a review in 1997 of the abortion-breast cancer research at a time when there were ten more American studies. At that time, eleven of twelve U.S. studies indicated increased risk, eight of which were statistically significant. [Wingo et al (1997) Cancer Causes Control 8:93-108]. Despite the fact that there were far more data available in 1997 than there were in 1986 when she wrote her letter for The Lancet, Wingo concluded that the research was "inconsistent" and that she was unable to arrive at "definitive conclusions.” 

According to Dr. Joel Brind, president of the Breast Cancer Prevention Institute, Wingo and her colleagues: 

...presented the data in a clear fashion, and the overall trend of the 
data in the direction of increased risk is unmistakable. In fact, I used the Wingo paper's graphic depictions of the data myself to help make the case for (an abortion-breast cancer link) bill during a public hearing in New Hampshire in 1998. [Joel Brind, Ph.D."RCOG Advises Abortion Practitioners: ABC Link 'Could Not Be Disregarded,” Abortion-Breast Cancer Quarterly, Winter 2000, Vol. 3, No. 4, p. 5].


Yet another official, Dr. Clark Heath, as a Vice President for the 
Society, testified in 1998 that if the division and maturation of the breast cells are "interrupted at a stage early on, perhaps that will lead to an increased risk of cancer, of carcinogenesis, which is more frequent when cells are rapidly dividing and are young." [Testimony of Dr. Clark Heath at 165, Christ's Bride Ministries, Inc. v. Southeastern Pa. Transp. Auth., 937 F. Supp 425 (E.D. Pa. 1996), rev'd 148 F. 3d 242 (3d Cir. 1998) (No. 96-3631)].

SOCIETY OBJECTS TO COALITION’S ACCURATE QUOTE

On July 7, 2000 a paralegal in the Office of Corporation Counsel at the 
national home office of the American Cancer Society e-mailed our Coalition and made the following request:

We recently noticed that you posted outdated American Cancer Society information (1996 Cancer Facts and Figures) on your web site regarding the effects of abortion on breast cancer. We would appreciate if you would delete this information since not (sic) longer current and may be misleading to the public.

If you wish to post Society information regarding this topic, please post the following: “Induced abortion: A large, recent study from Denmark has provided very strong data that induced abortions have no overall effect on the risk of breast cancer. Also, there is no evidence of a direct relationship between breast cancer and spontaneous abortion (miscarriage) in most of the studies that have been published.”


Please feel free to correspond if you have any questions.

The accurate statement on our web site, which the Society found objectionable, was this: “The American Cancer Society has stated in its fact sheet that abortion ‘may be associated with increased breast cancer risk.’ {American Cancer Society, Cancer Facts & Figures -- 1996, at 12 (1996)}.”

1997 AND 1999 DANISH STUDIES

The American Cancer Society continues to rely on the 1997 Melbye study (also known as the Danish study), although it has been severely criticized 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].

The New England Journal of Medicine, which published the Melbye study only 3 years ago, quietly published an article by Katrina Armstrong in February of 2000 in which abortion was called a "risk factor." In reviewing risk factors for breast cancer the article stated, "Other risk factors have been less consistently associated with breast cancer (such as diet, use of oral contraceptives, lactation, and abortion)." [Armstrong (2000) NEJM 342:564-71]. 

Significantly, even the 1997 Melbye study reported that: 

[w]ith each one-week increase in the gestational age of the fetus . . . 
there was a 3 percent increase in the risk of breast cancer. [Melbye et al., "Induced Abortion and the Risk of Breast Cancer," 336 New England J. Med. at 83 (1997)].


Melbye concluded in 1997 that:

Induced abortion had no overall effect on the risk of breast cancer, but 
we found a statistically significant increase in risk among women with a history of second-trimester abortion. The fact that such an increase did not affect the overall result clearly indicates that it is based on small numbers and therefore requires cautious interpretation. The increased risk among women who had had second-trimester abortions finds biologic support in experiments in rats and is in line with the hypothesis of Russo and Russo. [Id. at 84].

COALITION’S RESPONSE

We responded to the paralegal’s e-mail message with a July 26, 2000 
letter to the Society, which said in part:

We request the following additional information: 

First, we think that women have a right to be a part of the discussion 
concerning the available medical research on the abortion-breast cancer link.. Has the American Cancer Society ever informed the American public of the existence of 27 out of 33 worldwide studies (17 of which are statistically significant), which have been done over the last 43 years and which have implicated abortion as a risk factor for breast cancer? Has your organization informed the public of the 13 out of 14 studies on American women, which have shown a link between abortion and breast cancer? 


Second, medical experts universally agree that having a child early in a woman's child-bearing years is protective against breast cancer. In fact, one Harvard study reported that each year that a woman postpones her first full-term pregnancy will increase her breast cancer risk by 3.5%. [Dr. Brian MacMahon, Dr. Dimitrios Trichopoulos, et al., “Age at any Birth and Breast Cancer Risk,” International Journal of Cancer, 1983;31:701-704].

We said that an expert witness for abortion providers in a Florida case 
challenging the state’s parental notification law, Dr. Lynn Rosenberg, a 
Boston University Medical School epidemiologist, even acknowledged during her testimony that abortion is linked with breast cancer in this way. Our letter said:


When asked by an attorney whether a pregnant 15 year old who aborts her pregnancy has a higher risk of breast cancer than one who carries her pregnancy to term, Dr. Rosenberg answered, “Probably, yes." [Dr. Joel Brind, “ABC in the Courts: Dramatic ABC Testimony in Florida’s Parental Notification Appeal,” Abortion-Breast Cancer Quarterly Update, (Fall, 1999) Vol. 2, No. 3, p. 1]. 

Does the American Cancer Society inform the American public that women who procure induced abortions will forego the known protective effect which an early first full-term pregnancy provides?

Third, an attorney who authored an article for the Wisconsin Law Review last year on the subject of informed consent and the abortion-breast cancer connection, John Kindley, has argued that physicians who breach this duty face considerable legal liability and can be sued for medical malpractice. (John Kindley, www.johnkindley.com). Whether or not physicians choose to recognize the abortion-breast cancer link, there is sufficient medical research available to impose a legal obligation on them to inform women of the available evidence. Has the American Cancer Society warned physicians that they expose themselves to legal liability when they fail to inform abortion-minded women of the increased risk of breast cancer? What is your opinion of the Kindley article? 

Fourth, Congressman Dave Weldon M.D. sent a “Dear Colleague” letter to all members of Congress on August 24, 1999 in which he referred to the Kindley article. He called abortion a “significant health risk” and a “health care time-bomb.” In addition, there was a debate in Congress on June 8, 1999 about the abortion-breast cancer link, during which Congressman Chris Smith called on the abortion industry to “stop the cover-up.”

Finally, we informed the Society that Congressman Tom Coburn, M.D. has, “accused the NCI (National Cancer Institute) of misleading the public and of ‘selectively releasing data’ on the subject. Have these events influenced the position of the American Cancer Society?”

Copies of our letter were sent to Dr. John Seffrin, CEO of the Society, 
and William Dalton, the Society’s Chief Counsel.

A LETTER FROM THE SOCIETY

Only the Society’s paralegal responded to our letter. His letter is 
dated August 7, 2000:

The American Cancer Society recently has become aware that the Coalition on Abortion/Breast Cancer web site contains outdated Society information with regard to abortion and breast cancer.

The information contained on your web site is approximately four years old (sic) and is no longer current by the American Cancer Society. Accordingly, we demand that you remove such information from your web site.


Obviously, the most effective way to provide your web site viewers with 
accurate information according to the American Cancer Society is to simply direct them to the Society’s web site at www.cancer.org.

I look forward to receiving your assurances within 10 business days of 
the date on this letter that this material will be removed from your web site.

We urge our readers to check the Society’s web site and see for 
yourselves if the Society provides the public with all of the information 
that we listed above in our July 26, 2000 letter. Decide for yourselves if 
the Society is pro-information.

Dr. Stuart Donnan, an editor for a British medical journal discussed the importance of being pro-information and opined that:

It will surely be agreed that open discussion of risks is vital and must 
include the people -- in this case the women concerned. I believe that if 
you take a view (as I do), which is often called pro-choice, you need at the same time to have a view which might be called “pro-information,” without excessive, paternalistic censorship (or interpretation) of the data. {Dr. Stuart Donnan, editor-in-chief, British Medical Association’s Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health editorial (1996) 50:605}.


Dr. Donnan apparently believes that many who consider themselves 
“pro-choice” do not necessarily support the right of women to make an 
informed choice about their health care.

SOCIETY'S LEGAL EAGLES HARASS THE COALITION

The Society’s harassment campaign against the Coalition was escalated further on August 28, 2000 when the paralegal e-mailed an even more insistent message. It said:

The American Cancer Society has not received your response to our letter dated August 7, 2000 in which we demanded that you remove outdated, inaccurate American Cancer Society information regarding an abortion-breast cancer link from your web site.

Your continued use of information from the 1996 edition of our Cancer 
Facts and Figures can only confuse the public who may mistakenly believe that it somehow reflects the Society’s position on this issue. The truth is that the Society does not have a “position” on abortion and breast cancer since studies are inconclusive. Accordingly, we demand that you remove this content and any other reference to the American Cancer Society from your web site. 

I look forward to your timely response.


Contrary to the Society’s assertion that the American Cancer Society has no position, the fact is that its position is made eminently clear by its reliance on the seriously flawed 1997 Melbye study and its continued denial of an association between induced abortion and breast cancer. Its denial of a link is used by the abortion industry as an effective tool to persuade the media, legislators, educators and the public that there is no reason to be concerned about the abortion-breast cancer research. 

The paralegal’s “demand” that we delete accurate quotes and references to the Society from our web site strikes us as an attempt to violate our first amendment rights to freedom of speech and the press and to intimidate the women in our coalition. We think that even “outdated” statements are enlightening for the public. They demonstrate what scientists are willing to say when it is politically safe to do so. 

An attorney responded on our behalf and asked the Society to provide the “legal basis” for the Society’s demand that we remove references to the Society from our web site.

THE SOCIETY E-MAILS THE ATTORNEY

The Society’s paralegal responded to the attorney’s inquiry on September 28, 2000 with the following e-mail message:

Your organization has cited several sources of information regarding 
possible links between abortion and breast cancer, including a reference from the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Facts and Figures - 1996. In the interest of providing more current American Cancer Society information to your viewers, I have provided for your use our most recent information on induced abortion and cancer.

Induced abortion: “A large, recent study from Denmark has provided very strong data that induced abortions have no overall effect on the risk of breast cancer. Also, there is no evidence of a direct relationship between breast cancer and spontaneous abortion (miscarriage) in most of the studies that have been published.” (American Cancer Society Cancer Information Database - 2000).

If you still wish to quote our copyrighted publication ‘Cancer Facts and 
Figures,’ provide the information “as is.” This is a standard practice.

From Cancer Facts and Figures - 1996: “Additional factors that may be associated with increased breast cancer risk and that are currently under study include pesticide and other chemical exposures, alcohol consumption, induced abortion, and physical inactivity.”

I look forward to your response.


In a later phone message left by the paralegal for this same attorney, 
the paralegal acknowledged the Coalition’s right to accurately quote the Society.

The Coalition asks its readers to compare the Society’s 1996 statement shown above to the quote we used on our web site, which said “The American Cancer Society has stated in its fact sheet that abortion ‘may be associated with increased breast cancer risk.’ {American Cancer Society, Cancer Facts & Figures -- 1996, at 12 (1996)}.” We can find very little difference between the two statements with respect to induced abortion as a risk factor for breast cancer. Moreover, the American Cancer Society’s 1996 statement is very weak and underestimates the weight of the evidence, and in fact is not inconsistent with the Society’s current characterization of the evidence as “inconclusive.”

CONCLUSIONS

The U.K.'s Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (RCOG) has warned its abortion providers that the abortion-breast cancer link “could not be disregarded” and that the 1996 Brind review "had no major methodological shortcomings". ["Evidence-based Guideline No. 7: The Care of Women Requesting Induced Abortion," RCOG Press Conference, March 13, 2000].

If the RCOG says that the abortion-breast cancer research “could not be disregarded,” then can the American Cancer Society and other anti-cancer organizations afford to disregard the overwhelming evidence of a link? Induced abortion is chiefly an elective surgical procedure. Abortions are rarely performed to save a woman’s life. With 27 out of 34 worldwide studies pointing to a link between abortion and breast cancer (as of the fall of 2000), 17 of which are statistically significant, isn’t it better to err on the side of caution? Should women be expected to unknowingly risk their lives in order to procure an elective surgical procedure? 

We argue that it is pro-information and pro-women’s health to err on the side of caution by providing women with all of the information listed in our July 26, 2000 letter to the Society. After all, women have the right to make fully informed choices about their own health care without “excessive paternalistic censorship (or interpretation) of the data.”

Many individuals and organizations in our society which have long been trusted with the dissemination of public health information are responsible for withholding this vital information from women. There is no institution in society -- not the media, government, organized medicine, education or organized religion -- which is disseminating information about the abortion-breast cancer research to women. After 44 years of published studies on the abortion-breast cancer research, it has become very apparent that the powers-that-be do not intend to share this information with the public. 

The only way that women will be told the truth is if individuals who are 
aware of the research take this matter into their own hands to make it a grassroots movement. Those who have knowledge of the abortion-breast cancer research are morally obligated to share the information with friends, relatives and neighbors and for doing everything possible, within their means, to spread the word within their communities. 


For more information about the government's cover-up, see these pages:

The Cover-up

Public Policy