Dr. Angela Lanfranchi is a breast cancer surgeon in New Jersey and researcher who has studied the link between abortion and breast cancer for decades.
She spoke at the National Right to Life Convention last month about how abortion can increase a woman’s risk of getting breast cancer and why research about the issue is so hush-hush in the public sphere.
Lanfranchi said she has been a practicing breast cancer surgeon since 1984. One day when she was getting ready for work, she said she had the TV on and heard an interview with Dr. Joel Brind, who has done extensive research on the abortion breast cancer link. Lanfranchi said she did not know a lot about the issue at the time, so she decided to begin researching it herself.
“I started collecting data in my own practice,” she said.
Lanfranchi said she began asking women more information about their reproductive history, including how many times they were pregnant, how each pregnancy ended and how long each pregnancy was. And she began discovering how different factors can impact a woman’s risk of getting breast cancer.
Based on her research and that of others, she found that premature births prior to 32 weeks, abortions and never having children or having them later in life all can contribute to an increased risk of breast cancer, she explained. These increased risks have to do with the hormone levels in a woman’s body and the changes in a woman’s breast tissue during pregnancy, she said.
“Most breast cancer risk factors rely on when do I get exposed to estrogen and how much estrogen do I get exposed to in my lifetime,” Lanfranchi said.
She said women who never get pregnant, who have children later in life, and who have more menstrual cycles are at an increased risk for breast cancer because they are exposed to more estrogen.
A pregnancy that ends early also can increase a woman’s risk of getting breast cancer, she said. Early in a pregnancy, a woman’s breast tissue reproduces rapidly and begins developing into milk-producing tissue for the child. However, the breast tissue does not begin fully maturing until 32 weeks of pregnancy, she said. The mature breast tissue is highly cancer resistant, but before 32 weeks, the immature tissue is cancer-prone, she said. When a woman’s pregnancy is interrupted by an abortion or miscarriage, she has a greater amount of that immature breast tissue, which increases her risk for cancer, she explained. In other words, if a pregnancy is cut off before 32 weeks, a woman is left with more immature breast tissue and more places for cancer to start, she said.
She cited 34 statistically significant world-wide studies that support the link between abortion and an increased breast cancer risk. Between 1957 and 2013, there have been at least 73 studies regarding induced abortion and breast cancer: 57 showed a positive correlation between abortion and breast cancer risks, 34 of which were statistically significant; and 16 studies showed a negative correlation, none of which were statistically significant, she said.
“How do people deny the link between abortion and breast cancer risks? There is sort of a willful ignorance. … They don’t connect the dots,” Lanfranchi said.
Lanfranchi said most major cancer groups deny that there is a risk. One reason for this is that major government funding groups have shut the door on abortion breast cancer research, she said. In 2003, researchers at a National Cancer Institute workshop basically decided that they will not study the link or provide funding for studies on the issue, she said. Their strategy is just to not talk about it anymore, she said.
Another reason? Fraud. Lanfranchi admitted that fraud is “a very, very strong word to use,” but she said it could be a possible factor in the cover-up of the abortion breast cancer link.
As evidence, she referred to a 2005 survey in the journal Nature, which asked several thousand early and mid-career scientists in the U.S. who are funded by the National Institutes of Health to report their ethical behaviors. In the survey, 15.5 percent of researchers reported anonymously that they changed the design, methodology or results of a study in response to pressure from a funding source.
Lanfranchi said doctors and researchers face societal pressure to deny the link; some who have exposed the risks of abortion have been ostracized and lost work.
This has not stopped Lanfranchi, Brind and others from continuing their research and working to educate women about the risks of abortion. The new documentary film “Hush” also is shedding light on the cover-up from a “pro-choice” woman’s perspective. The director of the film, Punam Kumar Gill, identifies as pro-choice; and at the end of the film, she concludes that while she still believes abortion is a woman’s right, she also thinks that women are not being informed of the potential risks of abortion.
Lanfranchi said she informs the women in her practice about the research on abortion and breast cancer, and some have chosen not to go through with abortions as a result.
More information about the abortion breast cancer link, the science behind it, research and analyses can be found at the Breast Cancer Prevention Institute’s website.