Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Oral Contraceptives and Cancer

The National Cancer Institute admits there is some evidence that women who use oral contraceptives face an increased risk of breast cancer for several years. That is no surprise, since the Pill delivers estrogen to a woman's body, and increased exposure to estrogen is associated with elevated breast cancer risk. The mystery is not that oral contraceptives raise breast cancer risk, but that they don't appear to raise the risk anywhere near enough to account for the global epidemic of breast cancer since they became widely available in the 1960s.

What the National Cancer Institute won't tell you is that oral contraceptives are just one way a woman can get an abnormal exposure to estrogen. Pregnancy also delivers "sudden and dramatic increases in estrogen." There's nothing abnormal about pregnancy, of course, but doctors are well aware of a "transient" increase in breast cancer risk after birth. A full-term pregnancy matures and specializes breast tissue, reducing a woman's lifetime risk of breast cancer--but only after an elevated risk for the fifteen years after birth.

If a full-term pregnancy raises risk in the short term but lowers risk overall, what about an interrupted pregnancy? Miscarriages, which are often associated with insufficient estrogen levels, don't seem to have a measurable effect on breast cancer risk, but interrupting a viable pregnancy seems to produce the worst of both worlds--elevated short-term risk (due to estrogen) without the long-term benefit of mature, milk-producing tissue. In other words, it would seem that abortion must increase the risk of breast cancer in young women.

How come you don't hear that from the National Cancer Institute? The reason may disturb you. Study after study has been published on the abortion/breast cancer link, with varying results. Some, such as the most recent meta-analyis from China, find an elevated risk of cancer after abortion.
A systematic review and meta-analysis of 36 Chinese studies by Dr. Yubei Huang and his colleagues in the prestigious journal, Cancer Causes Control, last week reported a significant 44% increased breast cancer risk among women with at least one induced abortion...

Others find no increase in risk--but those studies simply compare women who have abortions to women who don't have abortions. That's like comparing pipe smokers to non-pipe-smokers instead of comparing pipe smokers to cigarette smokers to non-smokers. If estrogen is what elevates the risk of breast cancer, it makes no sense to compare one group of women with elevated estrogen levels (pill takers) to another group of women with elevated estrogen levels (whose pregnancies were terminated by induced abortions).

Once you include all sources of elevated estrogen, the "global epidemic" of breast cancer suddenly makes sense. Breast cancer is on the rise among all groups that routinely use oral contraceptives or choose abortion, while it tends to remain at normal levels among women without an artificially high exposure to estrogen.

If this is true, why isn't everybody talking about it? First of all, in our ultra-politicized world, anybody who mentions the abortion/breast cancer link is instantly marginalized--just like Sarah Palin was when she claimed Obamacare would lead to death panels. (If you haven't noticed, the mainstream media finally admits that death panels are real.)  Second, many of the biggest (and most questionable) studies on abortion and breast cancer have been funded by the same drug companies that produce the Pill. And finally, the political and legal implications of an abortion/breast cancer link are overwhelming. At a minimum, Planned Parenthood would be bankrupted by malpractice suits, and Roe v. Wade itself would have to be reconsidered in light of a genuine medical danger. The stakes in America are too high to let science be science.

But that can't be all there is to it! Science is science, and even the tobacco industry had to hide the evidence that smoking led to cancer. How can drug companies hide the evidence of an abortion/breast cancer link? The answer is, they don't. They just attribute it to "recall bias," arguing that women who choose abortion tend to be ashamed of their choice, and so don't tell the truth about their own medical history until they get cancer--at which point, life trumps privacy. With this approach, study after study that shows an elevated risk can be ignored every time. Without direct experiments on living human beings (which violates every principle of medical ethics), indirect evidence of increased risk gets ignored time after time.

Except in China. Abortion there has none of the personal stigma that it has in the United States, and medical records on abortions are easily available. With nearly a billion people and a state-mandated one-child per couple policy, China is the next best thing to a laboratory for conducting direct experimentation on living human beings. This makes it especially significant that Chinese researchers are pointing out the consistent elevated risk after abortion.

Convinced?  Then tell a friend--or ten. Forward this link to folks who need to know.

Skeptical? I haven't scratched the surface of the evidence for this link. Post your questions or critiques in the comment section below and I'll respond to them as time permits.

Angry?  That's what the comments are for--but please keep it clean, or I'll delete it, whether you're roasting me or toasting me. This blog is intended for the whole family, with a zero tolerance policy on profanity.

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