February 24-26, 2003

Albert Einstein, the Theory of Relativity and the Deficiencies of Consensus Panels

In the 1930's, 100 scientists wrote a collection of essays, which disparaged Albert Einstein's theory of relativity.  When a reporter asked the esteemed scientist for his comment, Einstein cleverly replied,
"Why 100? If I were wrong, one would have been enough." 

What do Einstein's difficulties have to do with the abortion-breast cancer (ABC) link?  During a February 2003 workshop sponsored by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) the agency needed more than 100 grant-dependent scientists to disparage the ABC research and a 1996 review and meta-analysis by dissenting scientist, Joel Brind, Ph.D. and his colleagues from Penn State. [
J Epidemiol Community Health 50:481-96]  This was of critical importance to the agency because of the explosive political ramifications that will inevitably follow once women become aware of the NCI's duplicity. 

Even though only one scientist is needed to disprove the biological explanation for the ABC link, no one has ever done so.  Scientists can't dispute it because too much of it agrees with what experts already know about human biology, the development of cancer and the risks of being overexposed to the secondary carcinogen, estrogen. 
Einstein's quote sheds light on the deficiencies of using consensus panels to determine a cause and effect relationship between an exposure and a disease, a common practice used by the National Institutes for Health (NIH).  The legal profession calls it a "spurious method," and considers its own methods for determining causality to be superior. 
The practice is likened to the use of a jury to decide a question of fact. It is well known that juries don't always provide either a fair or an unbiased verdict.   

One physician explained the difficulties of using the NIH's method.  She said,
"The truth isn't reached by consensus."

Einstein's quote demonstrates that the NCI's efforts to debunk the research cannot withstand the test of time.  Ultimately, the truth will be told to women.

Summary of Workshop Findings

The NCI sponsored a three-day workshop for selected scientists to discuss the abortion-breast cancer (ABC) research.  NCI director Andrew Von Eschenbach announced at the start of the workshop that its purpose was to allow scientists to review, evaluate and debate the research. 
That never happened, but several weeks after the workshop, Von Eschenbach told New York Times reporter Claudia Dreifus that the workshop permitted 'open and vigorous' scientific debate.  Von Eschenbach's staff either misled him or else he lied. [1] 

A scientist's eyewitness account reveals that the workshop was
not designed to allow a comprehensive review, evaluation and debate of the merits of the research.  Dr. Joel Brind's Minority Report shows what really took place.  For non-scientists, we offer the following summary of his Minority Report:

1. The NCI's leaders only invited one viewpoint - that abortion is not related to increased risk of breast cancer.  No one was invited to debate the issue or given an opportunity to present an opposing viewpoint. 

2. Invited scientists were not independent of the federal government.  Their scientific careers depend heavily on the NCI or other federal agencies for grants.

3. For the first month after the February 24-26 workshop, visitors to the NCI's website were led to believe that no dissent had taken place. There was no indication whatsoever that dissent had occurred.  The NCI's updated March 25, 2003 web page included bare minimal information that an unnamed "participant" (Joel Brind, Ph.D.) dissented.  The dissenter's Minority Report is excluded from the web page altogether.  As a result, women are being kept in the dark about the rationale behind his dissent.

4. The NCI workshop statement and its website admit that late first term pregnancy, childlessness, lack of breastfeeding and decreased childbearing raise breast cancer risk.   It is self-evident that abortion causes breast cancer in this first of two ways by contributing to these childbearing patterns.

5. The NCI's workshop findings - that abortion is unrelated to increased risk of breast cancer - contradicts 46 years of epidemiological and biological evidence demonstrating a positive association.  As of February 2003, 29 out of 38 epidemiological studies reported risk elevations.  Thirteen of 15 American studies reported increased risk.  Sixteen of 17 statistically significant studies found risk elevations. 

Additionally, scientists know that estrogen overexposure provides a reasonable explanation for most of the risk factors for breast cancer.  Because women are exposed to more estrogen starting early in pregnancy than at any other time in their lives, estrogen overexposure also provides a reasonable explanation for the ABC link. Only a third trimester process is believed to mature breast cells into cancer-resistant cells.

6. Three new studies were announced, but not given to scientists for an in-depth evaluation before the start of the workshop.  The studies were non-peer reviewed, and their data were unpublished. Although scientists regularly share their data when asked to do so, requests for it were denied to the workshop's participants. New studies were presented on Day 2 of the workshop, the only day for which a videocast was not made available on the NCI's website until long after media attention had waned.

7. Mads Melbye was one of three scientists reporting new research.  During the six-year period prior to the workshop, the NCI and private cancer organizations told the world that the prospective study, Melbye et al. 1997, was the "perfect" study. [2]  They used it quite effectively to disparage 29 studies reporting risk elevations (even though Melbye and his colleagues were severely criticized for misclassifying 60,000 women who'd had abortions as not having had abortions.) [3]

The cancer and abortion industries didn't tell women, however, that even Melbye et al. found a statistically significant 89% risk elevation among women procuring abortions after 18 weeks gestation.  At the workshop, Melbye announced that his team determined that data from the "perfect" study needed to be "reanalyzed."  Not surprisingly, their "reanalysis" eliminated this statistically significant finding from the 1997 study.

8. The workshop statement falsely labeled the relationship between pre-term birth and increased breast cancer risk as an "epidemiologic gap" in the research, even though the studies, Melbye et al. 1999 and Hsieh et al. 1999, provide ample support for a positive relationship. [4, 5]  Melbye et al. 1999 found a more than two-fold risk elevation among women having pre-term births before 32 weeks gestation.  Because a pre-term birth is essentially the same biological event for a woman as an abortion, both studies also provide support for the ABC link. 

The Melbye team's 1999 study implicitly corrected the defects in the methodology from the 1997 study and used the same population database.  Yet, the findings from the superior 1999 study were labeled an "epidemiologic gap," and the severely flawed 1997 study continues to be used to dismiss overwhelming evidence of a link.

9. The NCI workshop statement led women to believe that a short-term breast cancer risk associated with a term pregnancy is greater than the risk associated with the non-pregnant state. The statement said, "Breast cancer risk is transiently increased after a term pregnancy."  Women weren't informed that:

1. The transient risk only occurs among women who delay their first full term pregnancies until age 25 or later; and

2. The transient risk is significantly less than the long- term risk associated with abortion. [6]

10. The workshop ended prematurely and suddenly, thereby thwarting opportunities for dissent.


1. "A Conversation with Andrew Von Eschenbach; Director Tries to Untangle Web of Cancer Controversies,"
New York Times, March 11, 2003.

2. Melbye M, Wohlfahrt J, Olsen JH, Frisch M, Westergaard T, Helweg-Larsen K, Ander-sen PK. Induced abortion and the risk of breast cancer.
N Engl J Med 1997; 336:81-5.

3. Brind J, Chinchilli VM. Letter re: Induced abortion and the risk of breast cancer.
N Engl J Med 1997;336:1834-1835.

4. Melbye M, Wohlfahrt J, Andersen A-MN, Westergaard T, Andersen PK. Preterm delivery and risk of breast cancer.
Br J Cancer 1999;80:609-13.

5. Hsieh C-c, Wuu J, Lambe M, Trichopoulos D, Adami H-O, Ekbom A. Delivery of premature newborns and maternal breast-cancer risk.
Lancet 1999;353:1239.

6. Lambe M, Hsieh C-c, Trichopoulos D, Ekbom A, Pavia M, Adami H-O. Transient increase in the risk of breast cancer after giving birth.
N Engl J Med 1994;331;5-9.

The Coalition on Abortion Breast Cancer

P.O. Box 152
Palos Heights, IL 60463
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