Oped Perpetuates Myth About Breast Cancer/Abortion Tie
Original article published at the Hawaii Reporter.
It was with great dismay that I read Carol R. White’s October 20, 2009 Guest Commentary entitled "Breast Cancer Awareness Campaigns Should Focus on Abortion Connection". That commentary perpetuates the myth that abortion increases the risk of breast cancer based on unsound studies and serves as poor advice for women when it comes to preventing and detecting breast cancer.
For many years those who oppose a woman’s right to privacy in her reproductive health choices have displayed studies suggesting a correlation between access to abortion and breast cancer diagnosis. Similar to the studies cited by Ms. White, these studies were largely ‘case-control’ studies, focusing on small samples of women who self report having had an abortion. However, correlation is not the same as causation and the medical community has long regarded the ‘case-control’ methodology as unreliable.
In 2003 the National Cancer Institute convened over 100 experts to research this issue. They reviewed population based studies, clinical studies and animal studies. In NCI’s Summary Report: Early Reproductive Events and Breast Cancer Workshop, those experts concluded that there is no established link between abortion or miscarriage and breast cancer. The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology did an independent review of the issue in 2003, and similarly found no such link. In fact of all the studies looking at medical records and medical histories or large samples of women, not a single one has found any link between abortion and breast cancer.
Especially during this Breast Cancer Awareness Month, it is time for us to stop using scare tactics and focus ourselves on providing the best quality health care for women, care that includes breast cancer prevention and reproductive health care. When we provide bad advice to women faced with difficult health care decisions, all women lose.
Katie Reardon, Esq., is the Vice President of Government and Public Affairs at Planned Parenthood of Hawaii. In 2009, PPH provided reproductive health care, including breast and cervical cancer screenings, to approximately 4000 women in Hawaii.