TESTIMONY OF KAREN MALEC
President, Coalition on Abortion/Breast Cancer
March 12, 2007
My name is Karen Malec. I have been president of the Coalition on Abortion/Breast Cancer for more than seven years. I am a cancer advocate and a 17-year survivor of colon cancer. I want to bring to your attention two risks of abortion - breast cancer and premature birth. I mention premature birth because this more than doubles a mother's breast cancer risk if it occurs before 32 weeks of pregnancy. These findings also provide support for an abortion-breast cancer link since an abortion is essentially a premature birth.
Research shows that teenagers who have abortions fall into a high-risk group for breast cancer and later premature births because of the immaturity of the adolescent anatomy.
It took the cancer establishment 35 years before it acknowledged that cigarette smoking was the primary cause of lung cancer, 14 years to acknowledge combined hormone replacement therapy as a risk factor for breast cancer and two decades to recognize combined oral contraceptives as a risk factor for breast cancer. Abortion is a risk factor for breast cancer, and the evidence is overwhelming.
Most women who have breast cancer have not had abortions, but abortion is responsible for up to 10,000 cases of breast cancer yearly.
Two breast cancer risks are associated with abortion - the loss of the protective effect of a full term pregnancy and the independent link. All medical experts recognize the first breast cancer risk. Scientists continue to debate only one breast cancer risk associated with abortion - the independent link. Eight medical groups recognize an independent link.
Recognized Breast Cancer Risk of Abortion - Loss of the Protective Effect of Childbearing
Cancer groups agree that increased childbearing, starting at an early age, and increased duration of breastfeeding provide significant reductions in breast cancer risk. Childbearing helps protect women from breast cancer because it provides the only means for a woman to mature her cancer-vulnerable tissue into cancer-resistant tissue.
Breast tissue consists of lobules (milk glands and a duct) and supportive tissue. The childless woman's breasts overwhelmingly consist of primitive, immature, cancer-vulnerable lobules called Type 1 and 2 lobules. Approximately 95% of all breast cancers originate in these lobules.
The earlier a woman has her first full term pregnancy, the sooner she matures her Type 1 and 2 lobules into cancer-resistant Type 4 lobules, and the lower her lifetime breast cancer risk is. The more children she has, the more cancer-resistant tissue she acquires.
Consequently, there is no debate in the scientific community that the young woman who has an abortion has a greater breast cancer risk than the one who has a baby. Even Dr. Lynn Rosenberg of Boston Medical School, who testified on behalf of Florida abortion providers for the Center for Reproductive Rights, agreed with that statement.
The Debated Breast Cancer Risk of Abortion - The Independent Link
Scientists debate only one breast cancer risk associated with abortion - the "independent link," which would mean that abortion leaves women with more cancer vulnerable lobules than they had before they became pregnant. No scientist has challenged or refuted the biological reasons for an independent link. Starting early in a normal pregnancy (not most miscarriages), the woman is overexposed to the hormone estrogen, a known carcinogen. Estrogen climbs 2,000% by the end of the first trimester. Estrogen causes her breasts to grow, and it stimulates her lobules to multiply. At the conclusion of the first trimester, she has developed an increased number of cancer-vulnerable Type 1 and 2 lobules.
During the last months of pregnancy, another process (differentiation) protects her from the adverse effects of estrogen. Under the influence of other hormones, her lobules are matured into Type 3 lobules and then cancer-resistant Type 4 lobules. At the end of a full term pregnancy, 85% of her lobules are Type 4 and 15% remain cancer-vulnerable. She's left with more cancer-resistant lobules than she had before she became pregnant.
Most miscarriages don't raise breast cancer risk. Most miscarriages are first trimester miscarriages. These tend to be abnormal pregnancies, and the hormone level is insufficient to maintain pregnancy.
Research shows that women who have premature deliveries before 32 weeks of pregnancy more than double their breast cancer risk. A premature birth is biologically the same event as an abortion.
A report in July 2006 from the Institute of Medicine (an organization of the National Academies of Science) listed "prior first trimester abortion" as an "immutable medical risk factor" for premature birth.
Planned Parenthood of Australia's Consent Forms Warn of Abortion-Related Health Risks
Planned Parenthood of Australia's website includes consent forms that list 12 serious complications from a first trimester abortion (not counting the risks of anesthesia). It says that some complications include: "infections ... a tear in the cervix that may require stitches ... incompetent cervix/stenosed cervix (too tight or too loose cervix which may impair future fertility), Asherman's syndrome (cessation of periods and adhesions in uterus that may impair future fertility), depression or mood disturbance, suicide...." See: http://websites.golden-orb.com/plannedparenthood/100158.php. The first two complications are accepted risk factors for premature birth.
Two Other Breast Cancer Risks - Oral Contraceptives and Hormone Replacement Therapy - Support an Independent Link
The World Health Organization listed combined (estrogen plus progestin) oral contraceptives and combined hormone replacement therapy as "Group 1 carcinogens" in July 2005. These findings provide additional biological support for an abortion-breast cancer link because the biological basis for all three breast cancer risks is the same.
Two reviews support an independent link between abortion and increased breast cancer risk. A review of 10 studies that are being widely used to deny a link between abortion and increased breast cancer risk was published in the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons in 2005. It demonstrated that the ten studies "embody many serious weaknesses and flaws..." and they "do not invalidate the large body of previously published studies that establish induced abortion as a risk factor for breast cancer."
Other investigators - Edward Furton, Ph.D., editor of the journal Ethics and Medics, and R. L. Walley, Executive Director and Honourary Research Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at MaterCare International - argued that "shoddy research" is being conducted by scientists who strongly favor abortion. A third investigator charged that "The abortion industry and medical establishment withholds this information in an attempt to prevent massive lawsuits from being filed."
Eight Medical Groups Recognize the Independent Link
Eight medical groups recognize the independent link between abortion and breast cancer. Another group, the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, has called on doctors to inform women about this "highly plausible" relationship.
Andrew Schlafly, general counsel for that medical group, wrote an article in 2005 for its journal warning doctors that three women (two Americans, one Australian) successfully sued their abortion providers for neglecting to disclose the risks of breast cancer and emotional harm, although none of the women had developed the disease.
Texas and West Virginia Health Department Handbooks on Abortion
Texas and West Virginia provide some of the best information on abortion and breast cancer. Texas also warns about the risk of premature birth and several other risks. The Texas handbook, "A Woman's Right to Know," says:
"Future Childbearing and Infertility…Some large studies have reported a doubling of the risk of premature birth in later pregnancy if a woman has had two induced abortions. The same studies report an 800 percent increase in the risk of extremely early premature births (less than 28 weeks) for a woman who has experienced four or more induced abortions. Very premature babies, who have the highest risk of death, also have the highest risk for lasting disabilities, such as mental retardation, cerebral palsy, lung and gastrointestinal problems, and vision and hearing loss.
"Breast Cancer. Your chances of getting breast cancer are affected by your pregnancy history. If you have carried a pregnancy to term as a young woman, you may be less likely to get breast cancer in the future. However, you do not get the same protective effect if your pregnancy is ended by an abortion. The risk may be higher if your first pregnancy is aborted.
"While there are studies that have found an increased risk of developing breast cancer after an induced abortion, some studies have found no overall risk. There is agreement that this issue needs further study. If you have a family history of breast cancer or clinical findings of breast disease, you should seek medical advice from your physician before deciding whether to remain pregnant or have an abortion. It is always important to tell your doctor about your complete pregnancy history."
West Virginia's handbook says:
"Breast Cancer: Studies show that women who have children before age 30 have a lower risk of breast cancer than those who have children later in life or no children at all. Findings from other studies suggest an increased risk of breast cancer among women who had one or more abortions."
''Medical Elite Privately Say Abortion Causes Breast Cancer, but It's 'Too Political' to Discuss Publicly''
In a California lawsuit filed in 2001 against Planned Parenthood Federation of American for falsely advertising the alleged safety of abortion, Angela Lanfranchi, M.D., a New Jersey breast surgeon, declared under oath that she has had private conversations with leading cancer specialists from Harvard, the Miami Breast Cancer Conference and the American Society of Breast Surgeons. They told Dr. Lanfranchi that they are aware that abortion causes breast cancer, but they would not say so publicly because it is 'too political.' See her statement here.
In the California lawsuit cited above, Professor Joel Brind, president of the Breast Cancer Prevention Institute, provided an affidavit in which he stated that the risk of dying from breast cancer is many times greater than the risk of dying in childbirth. He said:
"As discussed herein in my 1996 'comprehensive review and meta-analysis' of the relevant worldwide studies then published calculated that the risk of breast cancer among those women who had experienced an induced abortion was 30% higher than among women who had not, independently of the effect due to abortion's delay of first full-term pregnancy. Since an average American woman's lifetime risk of breast cancer is between ten and twelve percent, this 30% increase amounts in absolute terms to at least a three percent, or 3 in 100 excess risk of developing breast cancer. Given that approximately 1 out of 4 women diagnosed with breast cancer die within five to ten years, this excess absolute risk of three percent means that 3 out of every 400 (or 750 per 100,000) women who have an induced abortion will die from breast cancer attributable to the abortion - a far higher death rate than the 9.1 maternal deaths per 100,000 associated with childbirth.
"Moreover, as discussed herein, having a first full-term pregnancy before age 30 is protective against breast cancer, while aborting the pregnancy results in the loss of this protective effect. Research shows that even a one year delay of the first-full term pregnancy (including through abortion) results in an increased risk of death from breast cancer about ten times greater than the death rate associated with childbirth, which has been estimated by the American Medical Association at 9.1 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births. If first childbirth is delayed by more than one year after the abortion, the risk of breast cancer (and therefore of death from breast cancer) is correspondingly greater.
"These facts show that, contrary to Defendant's statement as described in the Complaint, the death rate from induced abortion is higher than the death rate from childbirth."