Abortion and Breast Cancer: The Stubborn Link Returns
New studies show an alarming rate of the disease among women who have had abortions.
Prominent abortion practitioner and promoter David Grimes bemoans that bumper stickers still warn that abortion increases the risk of breast cancer, even though, he asserts, that “theory . . . was debunked long ago.” So begins Grimes’s recent piece on the Huffington Post’s blog Healthy Living.
“Long ago” was, though Grimes doesn’t say so, 1997 to 2008, when there flowed a stream of “debunking” publications — largely studies that were methodologically flawed — reporting that no abortion–breast cancer (ABC) link existed. They were effective in fading the ABC link from public consciousness.
But now the ABC link has returned, stubbornly, provoking renewed efforts to debunk it.
Being real, the ABC link is showing up, conspicuously, as millions of women worldwide who have had abortions over the past several decades are coming down with breast cancer at alarmingly increased rates.
Dozens of papers are being published that show the trend. Grimes does not acknowledge the recent studies, however, relying rather on the discredited arguments of “long ago” — and some clever sleight of hand — in his … attempt to disprove the link.
The first epidemiological study to show a link between induced abortion and breast cancer was published in 1957.
In 1996, a research team I headed up published a comprehensive review and meta-analysis of worldwide research on the subject — some 23 studies. Our finding of a statistically significant, 30 percent increase in breast cancer among women who had had an abortion prompted a major, decade-long backlash from many mainstream medical organizations, medical journals, and government public-health ministries.
Grimes’s case rests almost entirely on two studies from Scandinavia in the 1990s. One of them is a prominent 1991 study, using data from Sweden’s Karolinska Institute (a committee there appoints the laureates for the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine), that supposedly exposed the main methodological flaw in earlier epidemiological studies that found an ABC link.
Typically, epidemiological studies rely on a retrospective design. That is, they identify a group of patients with the disease in question and a matched group of control subjects without it. The subjects are then interviewed or asked to answer a questionnaire. They are instructed to review their lifestyle and relevant medical history.
Differences between patients and control subjects with respect to the frequency of the exposure in question — here, abortion — provide a measure of “relative risk.”
So, for example, if 30 percent more of the patients report a history of abortion than do the control subjects, the relative risk would be 1.3, the figure that our group found when we combined worldwide data in 1996. But the 1991 Swedish study claimed to find evidence of “response bias” in the interview-based data, which they compared with computerized medical-record-based data on the same Swedish women.
It is well established that, in interviews, women tend to under-report their abortions. But the Swedish researchers posited that women with breast cancer would be more honest about their abortion history and would under-report less. Hence, in a retrospective study in which more past abortions were reported by the breast-cancer patients than by the control subjects, the finding of increased risk was deemed a possible “artifact” — that is, a false finding — due to “response bias.” Grimes even shows tables as evidence of how such differential “underreporting” “caused an apparent 60 percent increase in risk!” among women who had an abortion. He uses the simple past tense when explaining the data, as if they came from a real study.
Trouble is, the tabular data Grimes shows are 100 percent fictitious, and he never tells us they are hypothetical. The tables from the 1991 Swedish study compared the survey data with the data from computerized records and documented the “overreporting” of abortions among patients, and those tables formed the basis for the finding of significant response bias among breast-cancer patients. “Overreporting” means that patients imagined abortions that they never had — that is, they reported abortions that did not appear on their computerized medical record, the assumption being that the computerized record was correct.
So preposterous is the notion of overreporting that, in 1998, the authors of the 1991 Swedish study, led by Olav Meirik of the World Health Organization, publicly retracted the claim, in correspondence published by the British Medical Association.
They admitted that the phantom abortions were real but “not recorded as legally induced abortions.” Although the Meirik study, the only published study that claimed to report direct evidence of the response-bias hypothesis, was debunked in 1998, response bias continues to this day to be invoked as a matter of fact by Grimes and other safe-abortion advocates. He says it explains why “abortion foes got it wrong” about the ABC link. Pursuing the response-bias argument, Grimes and other researchers claim that studies that are based on medical records and other prospective data are immune to response bias and that they show no increased risk of breast cancer among post-abortive women.
The largest study that Grimes relies on to make this point is “a landmark prospective study,” by Mads, Melbye, et al. (1997), based on medical records of 1.5 million Danish women. But Grimes neglects to tell us that this study was debunked by published correspondence that demonstrated that 60,000 women in the study who had had legal abortions on record were misclassified as not having had an abortion.
Also, the fundamental rule of temporality was violated by the authors’ inclusion of breast-cancer diagnoses since 1968 but of abortions only since 1973. The exclusion of all the pre-1973 abortion data was based on the Danish authors’ false claim that abortion was legalized in Denmark in 1973, when in fact it had been legalized for reasons other than medical necessity in 1939, and only further liberalized in 1973.
All of Grimes’s rehashing and misrepresentation of bad science might be funny were the ABC link not devastating so many women’s lives. In this regard it is hardly funny that Grimes is silent on the veritable tsunami of ABC-link evidence that has poured in from Asia in just the past few years.
A 2014 meta-analysis of 36 studies from mainland China reported a 44 percent overall increase in breast-cancer risk among women who had had an abortion. But the strongest evidence comes from South Asia — India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka — where the typical woman marries young, has several children and breastfeeds them all, and never drinks alcohol or smokes cigarettes.
In such populations, where there is little else besides abortion to cause breast cancer, relative risks for abortion average greater than fourfold and as high as twenty-fold, according to at least a dozen South Asian studies in the past five years alone.
Contrary to Grimes’s claim that the ABC link was long ago “debunked,” the epidemiological evidence has grown tremendously stronger. The inference of a causal association between abortion and breast cancer has become all the more compelling, with our advancing knowledge of the hormonal changes during pregnancy and of how such changes during interrupted pregnancies dovetail with the susceptibility of cells in the breast to become cancerous. But Grimes makes mention of no data from this century at all, only of data from “long ago.”
With over a billion women in China and India alone, a very conservative prediction would be that in the coming decades, millions there will die of breast cancer that can be attributed to abortion.
No wonder Grimes is not interested in the recent data: It’s devastating to his “safe abortion” agenda.
— Joel Brind is a professor of biology and endocrinology at Baruch College, City University of New York, and a board member and co-founder of the Breast Cancer Prevention Institute.
Joel Brind March 10, 2015
Read more at: http://www.nationalreview.com/article/415140/abortion-and-breast-cancer-stubborn-link-returns-joel-brind
Denial of the Abortion-Breast Cancer Link Gets ‘Curiouser and Curiouser’
Where to begin to expose the over-the-top dishonesty of abortion advocate Dr. David Grimes’ piece on abortion and breast cancer posted on Feb. 26 in the Huffington Post Blog (“Abortion and Breast Cancer: How Abortion Foes Got it Wrong“)?
Not surprisingly Grimes begins by announcing dismissively that the abortion-breast cancer connection (ABC link) “was debunked long ago.” In truth, it is the denial that has been repeatedly debunked.
Ironically, one of the key studies Grimes relies on as “a landmark prospective study of women in Denmark” to “prove” the ABC link is a myth is actually the largest and most egregiously flawed of the prior studies.
Grimes neglects to tell us that this 18-year-old study was itself debunked by published correspondence.
In that back and forth, multiple errors were illuminated. For example 60,000 women in the study who had had legal abortions on record, were misclassified as not having had any abortions, badly skewing the study.
Moreover, the fundamental rule of temporality was violated by the authors’ inclusion of breast cancer diagnoses since 1968 but abortions only since 1973.
The omissions of pre-1973 legal abortions from the study were based on the Danish authors’ false claim that abortion was legalized in Denmark in 1973, when in fact, it had been legalized way back in 1939.
But Grimes’ main argument rests on another false report emanating from Sweden—a 23-year-old paper that claimed to show evidence of “recall bias.’ Recall bias posits that more healthy women (called “controls” in epidemiological studies) “underreport” (i.e., lie about) having prior abortions on study questionnaires than do breast cancer patients (called “cases” in epidemiological studies).
To make his case, Grimes shows us a pair of hypothetical statistical data tables (called 2×2 data tables; a standard presentation of raw epidemiological data, such as were presented in that Swedish study Grimes cites). He tells us this is evidence how such differential “underreporting” between women who “have breast cancer” and women who “do not” “caused an apparent 60% increase in risk!” among women who’d had an abortion.
Note the problem here: Grimes uses simple present and past tenses to describe the data he presents, and never tells us the data are hypothetical!
Why not use the real data to make his point? That’s easy: The original Swedish data tables tell a different story. Follow carefully because this is SOP for ABC link deniers.
The “underreporting” of abortions among the healthy Swedish women only showed up when compared to the supposed “overreporting” of abortion among the Swedish breast cancer patients.
“Overreporting” represents the bizarre notion that breast cancer patients imagined abortions that never took place—based on the fact that they reported having abortions that do not appear on the computerized record. So preposterous is the notion of overreporting that seven years later, the Swedish group publically retracted the claim, admitting that the phantom abortions were real but “not recorded as legally induced abortions.”
So Grimes was faced with a tough problem. The only epidemiological study which claimed to show direct evidence of “recall bias” was the aforementioned 1991 Swedish study. But he couldn’t just dust it off and use it to make his argument, since it was publicly discredited in 1998!
So he solved his problem by making up hypothetical data (an unfriendly critic would say fictitious data) and reporting it in such a way that the reader would infer it was the real data that evidenced recall bias.
All this clever rehashing and misrepresenting of last century’s junk science that Grimes engages in might be funny were the ABC link not devastating so many women’s lives. In this regard it is not funny at all that Grimes is totally silent on the veritable tsunami of ABC link evidence that has poured in from Asia in just the last few years.
A 2014 meta-analysis of 36 studies from mainland China reported a 44% overall increase in breast cancer risk among women with any abortions. But the strongest evidence comes from South Asia (i.e., India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka), where the typical woman marries young, has several children and breastfeeds them all, and never drinks alcohol or smokes cigarettes.
In such populations—where there is little else besides abortion that could cause breast cancer—relative risks for abortion average greater than fourfold and as high as 20-fold, according to at least a dozen South Asian studies in the last 5 years alone!
In other words, contrary to Grimes’ assertion, the recent studies provide the strongest evidence yet of the reality of the ABC link and its deadly effects.
With over a billion women in China and India alone, it’s very conservative to predict millions of breast cancer deaths in Asia attributable to abortion, in the coming decades. Doing the math is quite simple.
“If half of those billion women (five hundred million) end up having one or more abortions, and as few as 2% of them end up with breast cancer as a result, that would be 10 million women.
No wonder Grimes is not interested in the recent data, for it is devastating to his “safe abortion” agenda as well as to the lives of millions of unsuspecting women.
Joel Brind, Ph.D. is a Professor of Biology and Endocrinology at Baruch College, City University of New York, Co-founder of the Breast Cancer Prevention Institute, White House Station, NJ and a frequent contributor to NRL News and NRL News Today.
[March 2, 2015, Joel Brind, Ph.D., http://www.nationalrighttolifenews.org/news/2015/03/denial-of-the-abortion-breast-cancer-link-gets-curiouser-and-curiouser/#.VP4R-Y4Xc6E ]