In what may be a first, the Canadian Cancer Society and the National Cancer Institute of Canada have admitted a link between oral contraceptives and breast cancer. In their 2007 Annual Stats report, an entire section was dedicated to the topic of breast cancer. According to the report, one in nine Canadian women will suffer breast cancer in her lifetime, accounting for 29 per cent of all cancers in women. But the report went on to state, in a section entitled, “Trends and Incidence Mortality,” that possible explanations for the alarming rise in cases (30 per cent increase since 1969) “include changing patterns of childbearing and hormones (number of children, age at first birth, age at menarche and menopause, use of oral contraceptives and combined hormone replacement therapy).”
Further in the report was a chart listing, “Risk factors for breast cancer,” which includes the use of “exogenous hormones (oral contraceptives, combined hormone therapy).” The report did not state by how much these hormones raise the risk of breast cancer.
The link between oral conraceptives (OCs) and breast cancer is of itself old news. In fact, it has long been studied and reported, but due to many competing interests, has never been admitted by leading cancer authorities.
In October 2006, Dr. Chris Kahlenborn, MD, published a significant article in the Mayo Clinic’s medical journal, the Mayo Clinic Proceedings, that garnered worldwide attention. The article, entitled, “Oral Contraceptive Use as a Risk Factor for Pre-menopausal Breast Cancer: A Meta-Analysis,” reported a 44 per cent increased risk in women who used OCs before first full-term pregnancy. The reason for the increased risk was that OCs elevat a woman’s exposure to estrogen, a known carcinogen.
The World Health Organization has listed the birth control pill as a carcinogen since 2005, stating in a press release that combined oral contraceptives (estrogen plus progestogen) and combined menopausal therapy are “carcinogenic to humans.”
Though the National Cancer Institute and the Canadian Cancer Society have readily admitted that oral contraceptives and pregnancy events are risk factors in breast cancer, there was a deafening silence in the 2007 report when it came to the “A-word.” Abortion was not given a single mention and its absence was notable. If it can be admitted that the overexposure of estrogens in OCs and hormone replacement therapies raises a woman’s risk of breast cancer, why can it not be noted that a similar risk is present when a woman terminates her pregnancy and loses the protective effect of carrying her baby to term?
Dr. Joel Brind, who authored the famous meta-analysis that found a solid association between abortion and breast cancer, indicated back in 1996 that the overall risk increase for a woman who had experienced a termination of pregnancy was 30 per cent. That would make the 2007 annual report just about right – it says that the actual rates of breast cancer incidence have risen by 30 per cent since 1969, the year abortion was legalized.
Though abortion and OCs are risk factors in breast cancer, it does not mean that every woman with the disease has had an abortion or used OCs. Likewise, for women who have undergone these treatments, it does not follow necessarily that they will incur breast-cancer. But it does no one any good to not report the facts that OCs, HPT and abortion are risk factors.