“A new study by Dr Suraiya Jabeen and five others from the National Institute of Cancer Research and Hospital in Dhaka, Bangladesh* has shown that women who have a family history of breast cancer, or who smoke, are overweight, or have had an induced abortion, are more likely than others to suffer breast cancer in mid-life,” FamilyVoice research officer Ros Phillips said today.
There is a lower breast cancer rate in Bangladesh than in richer Western nations – possibly because most Bangladeshi women marry young, have children by the age of 20, and breastfeed them. Few smoke or are overweight, and almost none drinks alcohol. However some Bangladeshi women do get breast cancer, and the Jabeen study indicates some of the highest risk factors.
Dr Jabeen carried out multivariate analysis on a group of 262 women who had breast cancer, matched with a control group of the same size. The results showed that a history of induced abortion had the strongest relative risk of breast cancer later in life – with an Odds Ratio of 20.62, much higher than for a family history of breast cancer (3.85) or even a personal history of breast cancer (10.99). Giving birth at an early age, breastfeeding and regular exercise were found to be protective factors.
Of the 262 women with breast cancer, 88% had previously had an abortion. Of the 262 women in the control group without breast cancer, only 27% had previously had an abortion.
“The breast cancer-abortion link is especially pronounced in this study, but is generally in line with the great majority of similar studies worldwide that have also found such a link,” Ros Phillips said. “Of 68 studies in this area since 1957, 53 have shown a connection between abortion and breast cancer. Only 15 have not found a link.”
Ros Phillips has urged the Tasmanian Committee investigating Michelle O’Byrne’s Reproductive Health Bill 2013 to carefully consider the impact of the bill on women’s health.
“There is growing evidence that induced abortion, usually performed for reasons of social convenience, is far from risk free,” Ros Phillips said. “The O’Byrne bill would remove the current requirement for counselling before an abortion, and would brutally penalise counselling that shows the risks outweigh any benefits.
“Last month, another journal published a study confirming the psychiatric and psychological harms of abortion. MPs should not allow the ‘pro-choice’ slogan to hide this reality.”
*Jabeen, S et al, 2013, ”Breast cancer and some epidemiological factors: a hospital based study”, Journal of Dhaka Medical College; 22(1), 61-66
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