Awareness of a link between induced abortion and breast cancer has grown by leaps and bounds recently, says one of the world’s leading researchers into the issue.

“Eight or nine days ago, a million people in the world were aware that abortion and breast cancer are linked,” said Dr. Joel Brind in Toronto on October 20. “Right now, I would put that number at about 100 million. That’s because … of the extraordinary power of the mass media.”

Brind, a professor of biology and endocrinology at Baruch College in New York, addressed a Campaign Life Coalition meeting after a media blitz which spotlighted the abortion and breast cancer connection. The campaign managed to draw attention from such influential media outlets as the CNN all-news cable TV network in the U.S. and the Globe and Mail newspaper in Canada.

The effort also won him a meeting with the Ontario Cancer Research Foundation, which was getting inundated with calls after the media coverage.

The Toronto Star carried an Associated Press wire story on the issue October 12 which stressed the “controversial” nature of Brind’s research and the fact that he is an “anti-abortion activist.” The story appeared a day after the British Medical Association’s Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health published a study co-authored by Brind and epidemiologist Vernon Chinchilli.

The study promoted the British Pregnancy Advisory Service to set up a telephone hotline offering advice on the abortion-breast cancer link. Brind wondered if the advice available through the hotline will be objective.

“I am questioned often about having been published in what are called ‘anti-abortion journals,”’ said Brind at the Toronto meeting. “I want to underscore how dangerous and pervasive this attitude is. This type of attitude is not tolerable in a democracy and will eventually destroy democracy. We need to have the ability to speak freely and truthfully about what we know and think.”

Brind and Chinchilli collected information from 23 studies involving over 60,000 women into a meta-analysis which said women who have abortions are 30 per cent more likely to develop breast cancer at some point in life. However, the study immediately came under fire from some in the medical field. “The study is invalid,” said Boston University professor Lynn Rosenberg. “It means nothing.”

“It’s dangerous to just throw them (studies) all together,” remarked Dr. Karin Michaels of Harvard Medical School.

An editorial in the Journal of the American medical Association pointed to what it saw as “the inconsistent state of research and methodological limitations” regarding the issue.

On the other hand, the study received support from Dr. Janet Daling, an epidemiologist at the Hutchinson Cancer Research Centre in Seattle, WA, who said it is “very objective and statistically beyond reproach.” Brind said in Toronto that 23 of 29 studies now show a significantly increased risk of breast cancer in women who have had abortions. “No substantive criticism has stuck to it at all … I fully expect to be dragged through the mud. You take a lot of heat when you challenge abortion in any way.”

He added the support of other researchers who are not necessarily pro-life gives him and his fellow researchers “a lot of enthusiasm to press on with this.

“It was essentially as a voice in the wilderness that I spoke to whoever would listen and wrote articles for whoever would publish them—which, not very surprisingly, were only pro-life groups,” he said.

Brind said the abortion-breast cancer issue has given him a unique opportunity to present the pro-life view in a credible way.

“As important as speaking the truth, is speaking the truth in such a way that people will listen to you … I hope that as this unfolds, we get an opportunity to let people begin to understand that pro-life people are perfectly reasonable.”

He urged pro-lifers not to be dissuaded by charges of irresponsibility and scare-mongering for publicizing the abortion-breast cancer link.

“I can say with a little more confidence than I’ve said in the past: ‘Stay tuned.”’

Brind explained that the increased risk of breast cancer in women who have had abortions is a result of their having had lessened exposure to estradiol in their system, which allows a much higher number of “primitive cells” to survive in their breasts.

In women who continue with their pregnancies, more estradiol is produced and hormones act to kill the primitive cells or make them into milk producers.

Brind added that the so-called abortion pill, RU486, carries with it the same risks as other types of induced abortion.