Want to Reduce Your Risk of Breast Cancer? Don’t Have an Abortion

Opinion   |   Anna Nienhius   |   Oct 26, 2016   |   11:24AM   |   Washington, DC

Breast cancer will be diagnosed in 1 in 9 Canadian women. The scores of Canadians who know women affected by breast cancer know it affects women from all walks of life without discrimination. Yet, as with all cancers, we hold out hope that causes and risk factors can be identified. If links can be proven, we can choose to take precautions against increasing our risk unnecessarily.

One of the more disputed risks is that abortion increases a woman’s risk of breast cancer, and additional abortions increase that risk exponentially. What do we do when a risk factor is disputed for ideological reasons but the science makes sense?

When smoking was first considered a risk for lung cancer, threatened smokers pointed to other lung cancer culprits such as asbestos, which were certainly valid as well. But one risk factor does not negate another, and they now make little fuss about restrictions, knowing the evidence is unassailable that smoking is detrimental to both their own, and others’, health.

The claim of a potential link between abortion and breast cancer is still in the controversial stages where people feel threatened and feel that some right is at risk. In some part, this is due to the lack of funding directed toward studying the connection, thanks to the power of politics in funding scientific discovery.  Further, some suggest this link is merely a scare tactic to “make” a woman keep her child out of fear for herself.

But is that really why doctors, scientists, or pro-life advocates would mention the link between abortion and breast cancer? Rather, wouldn’t it make more sense that care and concern for women are obvious reasons for wanting to examine the explosion in breast cancer rates alongside the explosion in abortion rates since its decriminalization nearly three decades ago?

We already know that a woman who has an abortion is at greater risk of depression, suicide, and substance abuse. Now it appears that a woman who has an abortion is also at a greater risk of breast cancer. Abortion intentionally removes a growing baby while a woman’s body is in the midst of major hormonal shifts in anticipation of caring for that life.  Some of those hormonal changes directly impact her breasts, as they get ready to produce milk. Abruptly and artificially ending a pregnancy while that tissue is rapidly changing, but not giving it time to complete that change, leaves it particularly susceptible and vulnerable to cancer.

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Conversely, carrying a pregnancy to term decreases a woman’s risk of breast cancer, as the hormonal changes that are allowed to complete their course leave the breast tissue more resilient against cancer than they were prior to pregnancy. This protective effect increases with each pregnancy, while risk of breast cancer increases with each abortion or pre-term birth. A full-term pregnancy, especially for young women, can result in breast tissue changes that make up to 85% of breast tissue essentially immune to cancer. That this is especially true for young women is important, as abortion frequently has the effect of delaying child-bearing to a later age, adding to the increased risk.

Evidence exposed in the pro-choice documentary film Hush discusses this link in detail, as does work done by The deVeber Institute for Bioethics and Social Research.  Dr. Angela Lanfranchi is one of the prominent voices in this discussion. She has studied the possible connection in her practice for years. Since abortion has been legal and widely practiced for almost 30 years in Canada, and longer in the United States, we are only now starting to see the true long-term effects of abortion on women.

This does not apply only to women who have abortions, of course. The same science applies to those who never have children, as evidenced in higher breast cancer rates among nuns, as well as in those who experience miscarriages or premature births before 32 weeks’ gestation. But the fact remains: abortion is one of the causal factors in increasing your risk of breast cancer.

As a woman, isn’t that something you would want to know as you made your “choice”? As cigarette packages come with warnings about the possible ill effects on your health, so should abortion come with a clear warning that this is a decision that will have lasting impact, not only on your pre-born child, but also on you and your long-term health. Don’t tell me I don’t need to know, or that further research isn’t needed just because we’re talking about abortion. Breast cancer is serious business, and women have every right to know the truth.

LifeNewsNote: Anna Nienhius is the Research and Policy coordinator for WeNeedaLAW.ca