Research Indicates Abortion Linked With Breast Cancer

By Mike Wendling | July 7, 2008 | 8:10 PM EDT

London ( - An independent study commissioned by a British pro-life group has found that a surge in breast cancer rates in the U.K. and several European countries is most likely attributable to a rise in abortion.

Scientists with the Pension and Population Research Institute (PAPRI) say that if current trends continue, British breast cancer cases could rise by up to 60 percent in the next two decades. But the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists disputed the institute's findings, saying there is no proven link between breast cancer and induced abortion.

The PAPRI report found that the number of breast cancer cases in England and Wales could rise from about 35,000 in 1997 to 77,000 in 2023.

The author of the study, Patrick Carroll, said that the consequences of abortion on the health of a woman are starting to crop up in the general population. In addition to tracking abortion and cancer rates in the U.K., the study examined similar statistics in Finland, Sweden and the Czech Republic. Carroll said that the correlation between abortion and breast cancer was about the same in each country.

"There's a long-term effect and we're beginning to see that now," he said. "The statistics anticipate a direct increase in numbers of cases in the future."

Jack Scarisbrick, national chairman of Life, the charity that commissioned the report, the increase in breast cancer amongst middle-aged woman was particularly worrying.

"What the research shows is a massive surge in breast cancer in the 45-59 age group," he said. "This surge started in the mid- to late-1980s and is wholly atypical."

The researchers looked at several factors before pointing the finger at abortion, Scarisbrick said.

"The classic explanations are that the rising cancer levels have been caused by a decline in fertility, the rising age of a woman at her first pregnancy, and an increase in childlessness," Scarisbrick said.

All three are known to increase the risk of breast cancer, but the study found that the age at first childbirth in Britain has actually gone down, as has the incidence of childlessness.

"Fertility (the average number of children a woman gives birth to) has done down, but that's something that has affected all women, and would not specifically cause a surge in breast cancer in lower age groups," Scarisbrick said.

He added that the variable nature of environmental factors mean such things as increased alcohol use and other lifestyle choices cannot be entirely to blame, and thus the culprit appears to be the rise in abortion rates.

"Women in their 20s and 30s were getting abortions in the 1970s and 80s, and this age group is exactly where we're seeing the surge in breast cancer right now," Scarisbrick said.

"We argue that it is now impossible for doctors to approve abortions by saying that terminating a pregnancy is better for the woman's physical and mental health," he said.

Under British law, women are entitled to an abortion if a doctor certifies that carrying a child to term would hamper the mother's health, and 98 percent of all abortions are performed on those grounds.

According to a Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) report, at least one-third of British women will have an abortion at some point in their lives.

Royal College dissent

The RCOG has consistently denied a solid link between abortion and breast cancer rates.

"There is no new evidence that proves a causal link between abortion and breast cancer," said RCOG Professor Allan Templeton.

In contrast to the report, Templeton said that British women are indeed delaying childbirth. He also said better screening methods might account for the rise in cancer cases.

"The National Health Service breast screening program established in 1989 means more cases that would not have previously been diagnosed are now being identified," Templeton said.

"LIFE are mischief making and we do not support the sensational reporting of this study which serves no other function than causing anxiety amongst women," he said. "This report should not influence women in making decisions about abortion at difficult times in their life."\plain\f3\fs23