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Posts Tagged ‘breast cancer-abortion link’

Those following daily are beginning to get confortable with the jargon (I hope). For ease of newcomers following along , please consult the glossary of terms that I’ve written to make the terminology very understandable. Also, consult the post that explains the essential background.

Title: Pregnancy related protection against breast cancer depends on length of gestation

Journal: British Journal of Cancer (2002) 87: 289-290

Authors: LJ Vatten, PR Romundstad, D Trichopoulos, R Skjarven

Funding: Norwegian Cancer Society

So far we have seen research that has linked induced abortion with an increased risk of breast cancer. We have seen authors who stand behind their methods and results, but who attribute the increased link to a purported recall bias, which is claimed by the pro-abort researchers to be a function of these retrospective (self-report) studies. We have also seen one of the papers upon which these claims have been made, and have seen the appallingly sloppy and irresponsible statistics employed which simply strain credulity. Further, we have seen that spontaneous abortion (miscarriage) has no effect on breast cancer risk, as the estrogen levels in the mothers is abnormally low in these pregnancies. I have also been assailed by the usual suspects who claim that the retrospective studies are too small (a fair claim for a few, but not the majority).

Today we turn our attention to a paper employing a method touted by the pro-aborts: a prospective study. In this study National birth and cancer databases in Norway were employed to get an objective assessment of women from first birth in 1967 until the diagnosis of cancer, death from any cause, or the end of the follow-up period on December 31, 1997.

This study should please the pro-abort crowd for a couple of reasons. It’s prospective and it’s large, very large: 694,657 women.

Results: The study substantiated the data from some of the comparatively smaller studies we have thus far considered. For instance, it showed an increasing incidence of breast cancer with increasing age at first birth (95% CI):

Less than 20 years 1.0 (reference value)
20-24 years 1.10 (10% increased risk)
25-29 1.30 (30% increased risk)
30-34 1.48 (48% increased risk)
35+ 1.56 (56% increased risk)

So we see in a large prospective study the validation of the trends found in the smaller studies.

Now for the length of gestation in first pregnancy. As the length of gestation decreases, the risk of breast cancer increases (95% CI):

40 week gestation 1.0 (reference value)
37-39 weeks 1.08 (8% increased risk)
32-36 weeks 1.11 (11% increased risk)
less than 32 weeks 1.22 (22% increased risk)

So, from this short communication we see the validation of previous studies. We also see some major holes through which one could drive a truck.

In such a large data set, why didn’t the authors separate out spontaneous from induced abortions? They make an incredible claim that one study by Melbye shows no difference in breast cancer risk in women with either induced or spontaneous abortions. This, even though one of this study’s authors (Trichoupoulos from Harvard) published data to the contrary with 95% CI (We’ve already studied two of those papers here at Coming Home in the last week). So the authors lumped miscarriage in with induced abortion and still showed a 22% increased risk of breast cancer.

They could have, and should have, shown the data for induced and spontaneous abortions separately in this prospective study to put the issue of recall bias to bed, one way or the other. It would also be a good basis of comparison for those two categories’ results in the retrospective literature.

So why didn’t they?

The answer lies in the data reported. The data validate all other findings in the retrospective literature. The data also validate the proposed biological model, of placental lactogen maturing the breast cells in the last trimester.

Note even here the dishonesty built into the numbers, as week 32 (the earliest week reported) is in the middle of the third trimester. At this point, according to none other than Melbye, 90 % of the protective effect is already in place. Thus, the authors stratified the risk inherent in the remaining 10% of protective effect yet unachieved in the third trimester. They did nothing to show the loss of protective effect. In short, they lied.

A further masking of induced abortion’s effects is the lumping of miscarriage with induced abortion. As there are typically many more miscarriages than abortions, and since all earlier studies show no increased risk of BC with miscarriage, this too dilutes induced abortion’s real numbers.

Was this masking of the numbers regarding an ABC link intentional? I believe it was. The single greatest issue at stake in this paper was a refutation or validation of recall bias as an issue in the retrospective body of literature. The authors have all of the data before them and could re-crunch the numbers.

Taking the weak assumptions that underlie ‘recall bias’, the even weaker numbers (weak to the point of absurdity in an undergraduate statistics class) of the proposed evidence of recall bias by Rookus and van Leeuwen, the ham handed approach to an exquisite prospective data set of almost 700,000 women and the lack of population stratification to bolster the issue of recall bias, this scientist simply cannot believe that Vatten, et al. were so over-simplistic by any means other than intentional design.

This study validated every other trend in the body of retrospective literature. Even the 22% increased risk of BC in women whose pregnancies were interrupted in the middle of the protective effect period scream a validation of the 30-50% increased risks for induced abortions in the retrospective studies whose smaller numbers were not massaged.

Such recklessness constitutes a betrayal of women who are entitled to fully informed consent prior to a surgical procedure such as abortion. If any other surgical procedure raised women’s risk of breast cancer by 50% and the data were similarly massaged careers would end and lawsuits would abound.

When I was a graduate student we were taught that the only thing of value a Ph.D. has is his/her integrity, without which all else is naught. If these authors can’t be trusted to competently assess and report the data when millions of women’s lives hang in the balance, then what good are such people to society, to the scientific community? Is the next grant, the next paper, the next academic promotion, the adulation of pro-abort colleagues, the loss of one’s academic soul worth it?

One need only consider the epidemiologically marginal 50% increased risk of BC multiplied by the 1.8 BILLION women worldwide who have had abortions since 1960 (and the scores of millions more to come in the coming decade) to get the frightful numbers of women who have endured, and will endure the effects of such betrayal.

Scientific integrity matters.

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Illustration: Lisa Nolan

“At the heart of science lies discovery which involves a change in worldview. Discovery in science is possible only in societies which accord their citizens the freedom to pursue the truth where it may lead and which therefore have respect for different paths to that truth.”

-John Polanyi, Canadian Nobel Laureate (Chemistry);
Commencement Address, McGill University,
Montreal, Canada, June 1990

If you haven’t read Part I of this series, it’s worthwhile, as it sets the table regarding the issue of scientific orthodoxies. The two main areas of scientific contention arising from the post-abortive experience are:

1. Post-abortion syndrome.
2. Increased risk of breast cancer.

We’ve been dealing with the breast cancer link for a few weeks. For now, we need to turn our attention to post-abortion syndrome. Is it real, or artifact? It’s a valid scientific question, and pro-lifers should not shrink from the rigors of the scientific method in analyzing just what signs and symptoms constitute this syndrome and the extent to which post-abortive women are affected by it. Further, there should be a collaborative research project designed by pro-life and pro-choice scientists, rigorously designed and executed, whose data and conclusions could not be legitimately open to partisan sniping from either side.

But what if the data suggest that post-abortion syndrome is real? Would the anonymous peer reviewers, to whom a potential article would be submitted, kill the project with endless sniping and suggestions for alteration-as happens in real life? As was discussed in Part I, scientists have their established orthodoxies and don’t let go so easily. The fields of psychology, sociology, biology, and medicine are well-populated by pro-choice proponents who have much invested in the current pro-choice orthodoxies. It’s doubtful that such a proposed study would make it past peer reviewers and the editorial boards of the more mainline journals.

The matter of funding is another nightmare altogether. Still, It’s worth the try.

In the coming weeks, I’ll have guest-posters who run post-abortive counseling and healing ministries describing post-abortive syndrome as they understand it. But is it real and do we need science to pronounce on it to make it legitimate?

The answers are yes, and no, respectively.

I don’t mean to suggest that science isn’t necessary. Quite the contrary. However, science discovers truth, it doesn’t create truth. As seen in Part I, science often blinds itself to truth until it is no longer capable of doing so. Currently, we are in the denial stage.

The beauty of science is that we often observe what we believe to be a phenomenon, and then set out to ascertain just what it is we are seeing. Often, we are afraid or unwilling to entertain someone else’s hypothesis because it contradicts our own, and the work we are trying to do based on our world view.

That’s why I lead off with that beautiful quote from Prof. John Polanyi, which is worth a great deal of serious contemplation. How willing or open are the pro-choicer’s to make a change in their worldview if the emerging data continue to point in the direction of abortion as an experience that hurts women? This would challenge the very mechanism employed by modern feminism to advance its own cause-the liberation of women from motherhood and its demands through birth control and abortion. The suggestion by so many of feminism’s founders that motherhood prevents women from being all that they can be is at once a statement of women at war with their very biological and ontological identity, and a bold-faced lie.

To say the least, it is belied by the body of literature showing that latch-key children have higher rates of substance abuse and juvenile delinquency, and that home schooled children score higher in the aggregate on standardized exams than their traditional counterparts. These mothers must know something that the feminists do not. That isn’t to say that women who choose career over children and family are any less accomplished than their domestic sisters.

The three women who have had the greatest influence on my life and development as a Catholic and as a scientist all poured their lives into nurturing students. One took a vow to live her life as a single lay woman in service to the Church. The other two were on my dissertation committee in graduate school and were mentors extraordinaire. I owe these three women a great deal. Much of who I am is because of them, because they had the time to offer, and the generosity to extend themselves. It’s not necessary for women to become mothers in order to have fulfilling lives. Nor is it necessary for mothers to eschew family to have fulfilling lives.

Then there are women such as my wife who combine both career and motherhood.

The more strident feminists are not so given to equanimity and belittle their domestic sisters, and the agony of those whose abortions torture their souls. Unfortunately, the post-abortive literature must gain the approval of these same feminists in order to make it into mainstream professional journals.

It will happen one day. For now, pro-life professionals must continue to adhere to the highest standards of scientific record keeping and data reporting. The timbers supporting the Culture of Death are beginning to creak under the strain.

They’ll yield in due season.

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