Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Breast Cancer and Anti-Choicers

Currently Texas, Ohio, and North Carolina are in the process of passing abortion legislation to limit women's access to safe and legal abortions, citing safety for women as one of the reasons. One of the risks that anti-choice advocates speak of frequently and that Crisis Pregnancy Centers tell the women that visit them for guidance, is that abortion greatly increases the risk for breast cancer.
Less than one minute on google will tell you that this is false.
  • The American Cancer Society: "Linking these topics creates a great deal of emotion and debate. But scientific research studies have not found a cause-and-effect relationship between abortion and breast cancer."
  • National Cancer Institute: "They concluded that having an abortion or miscarriage does not increase a woman’s subsequent risk of developing breast cancer."
  • Wikipedia: "The abortion–breast cancer hypothesis has been the subject of extensive scientific inquiry, and the scientific community has concluded that abortion does not cause breast cancer."
Why, then, do those that oppose abortion make this claim? As much as I adamantly disagree with anti-choicers, it is hard for me to think that they just made this up. I decided to look into their reasoning for these claims.

Articles in The New AmericanThe Christian Post, and reference a Danish study that analyzes the relationship between reproductive history and long term mortality rates. I put together a graph of the study's findings to make the observed relationship between certain reproductive history and mortality rates a little easier to see:

While there is a marginally higher risk to women having had abortions than women with natural miscarriages, the greatest risk by far is to women that had never been pregnant. The conclusion of the study was that more study was needed, but the anti-choicers seem to have latched onto this and taken the information out of context. If the entire study is to be considered, then it would be reasonable for people concerned about breast cancer to advocate for pregnancy, since that seems to cut the risk significantly. In fact, the more pregnancies you have, the more your risk is reduced, with a very young start giving the best protection. So, following that line of thinking, those advocating against abortion with the argument of it causing breast cancer should be advocating for teen pregnancy.

That point is made clearly in a Biomed Central article that asserts, "In humans, having a child before the age of 20 decreases risk of breast cancer by half."

The relationship between abortion and breast cancer has nothing to do with the actual procedure of abortion, but it does relate to a lack of pregnancy. The reason why pregnancy drastically reduces the risk of breast cancer is related to a woman's menstrual cycle and the hormones created during this process. Simply put, the more menstrual cycles a woman has, the greater her risk of developing breast cancer. And because there is no menstrual cycle during pregnancy, it causes that risk to decrease. So, having an abortion doesn't increase your risk of having breast cancer, but not having full term pregnancies does.

But is that a good reason to not have an abortion? What are the perks of pregnancy, childbirth, and motherhood, and what are the cons? These are questions that need honest answers, not scare tactics and partial information. The breast cancer/abortion relationship is only one such falsehood that anti-choicers use to support their platform. 

No comments:

Post a Comment