KINGSTON  There were theatrics, debate and emotion  and a Global Action Plan. More than 500 people from around the world gathered at Queen’s University here July 13-17 to look at the causes of breast cancer and develop a strategy to halt the disease.

Breast cancer is the leading cause of death in women 35 to 54 years, and rates are highest in industrialized countries, including Canada.

In her plenary speech, former U.S. congresswoman Bella Abzug said breast cancer needs to be brought centre stage.

While Abzug spoke of a “sick” Mother Earth, reeling from unbridled pollution and its relation to breast cancer, she told those attending the wrap-up hearing “the fight for a policy focus on breast cancer has been part of the struggle to focus on primary health care including sexual and reproductive health ”

World Bank health specialist Anne Tinker, in a statement, said reproductive health and the health of women are integral parts of assistance to developing countries. In the poorest countries, the world bank helps governments ensure women have access to prvention and management of unwanted pregnancy, safe pregnancy and delivery care and management of sexually transmitted diseases.

The bank’s projects range from those which focus on specific aspects of women’s health to integrated activities which provide more comprehensive assistance in the health sector or extend across social sectors.

Campaign Life Coalition’s Louis DiRocco says “You have to remember what the World Health definition of ‘reproductive health’ is. That was made before the Cairo conference, which includes abortion.”

Campaign Life’s Joan Jackson, who attended the four-day conference, said, “We have to be good stewards of the environment, but I do think they are taking it to extremes, using it to further their agenda.”

Dr. Joel Brind, biology and endocrinology professor at City University of New York, was one of three medical experts presenting findings on the risk factors for breast cancer. Has major finding choosing an abortion, regardless of age or the number of pregnancies, noticably increases a woman’s risk of breast cancer.

The cancer risk arsies due to high estrogen levels. Brind told his audience of an Australian study done in 1988 but not published until 1995. He called it “particularly troubling when you consider this was the only study done on Australian women. It showed these women who had an induced abortion were 160 per cent more likely to get breast cancer. A similar situation occurred in France, where a study showed women were exposed to a two-fold risk factor.

Bella Abzug, a known abortion supporter, wondered aloud why Japanese women, who have high rates of abortion, have one of the lowerst breast cancer rates. Brind said it is a case of comparing Japenese women who have had abortions to those who haven’t.

Four studies have shown that the average risk increase with induced abortion in Japanese women is 100 per cent, or double the risk of breast cancer.

A second breast cancer conference is being considered in Ottawa by 1999.