Abortion-cancer link is rejected

A report stemming from a workshop sponsored by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) in Bethesda, Md., concludes that abortions don’t increase a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer. This controversial issue was reviewed in late February during a meeting of clinicians, epidemiologists, and basic scientists who study how early reproductive events influence breast cancer risk. There’s a large body of evidence, for example, that young women have a reduced breast cancer risk if they’ve had a baby.

The workshop was organized after members of Congress last summer inquired into the validity of an NCI fact sheet stating that abortions don’t increase a woman’s breast cancer risk. Several studies have suggested such a connection, but subsequent larger studies have not (SN: 1/11/97, p. 20: https://www.sciencenews.org/sn_arc97/1_11_97/fob1.htm). NCI responded to the inquiry by withdrawing its fact sheet and convening the meeting.

Workshop participants reviewed published research and, in a closed-door session, listened to presentations on unpublished data from additional studies. “There is strong evidence that there is no association between induced abortions and breast cancer risk,” says Daniel Medina of Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, who summarized the workshop’s conclusions.

The investigators also agreed that there’s compelling evidence that full-term pregnancies do have a protective effect in young women and called for more research in that area. The workshop findings have been presented to NCI, which will consider re-releasing the fact sheet.


If you have a comment on this article that you would like considered for publication in Science News, please send it to editors@sciencenews.org.

More Stories from Science News on Health & Medicine