Conservative MP Maurice Vellacott issued a release this week to say he had been vindicated by the National Cancer Institute for making the controversial claim that there is a link between induced abortion and breast cancer.
And Mr. Vellacott may be right.
Three years ago, the Saskatchewan MP helped to bring an American doctor and activist to Parliament Hill to tell Canadian women that abortion increases the risk of breast cancer. It turned out that the doctor, Angela Lanfranchi, was speaking from a defined religious point of view that had little apparent basis in science.
And, at the time, the link between the procedure and the disease had been discounted by the National Cancer Institute in the United States, the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada (and their U.S. counterparts), as well as the Canadian Cancer Society and the Canadian Breast Cancer Network.
But a study released last fall (available here but only for a fee) by the respected Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Institute in Seattle by a number of distinguished cancer experts including Louise Brinton, the chief of the Hormonal and Reproductive Epidemiology Branch of the National Cancer Institute lists induced abortion as being "associated with an increased risk for breast cancer." Background documents further suggest that it increases the risk of the disease by 40 per cent.
An e-mail to Dr. Brinton on Friday was returned by an Institute spokesman named Michael Miller who said: "NCI has no comment on this study. Our statement and other information on this issue can be found at http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/ere." That link turns up a 2003 document that says a workshop of more than 100 leading experts concluded that having an abortion or miscarriage does not increase a woman's subsequent risk of developing breast cancer.
Requests for an explanation of the apparent discrepancy between that position and the information contained in the study released last spring went unanswered by NCI .
The Liberals, meanwhile have called on Prime Minister Stephen Harper to disavow Mr. Vellacott's "false and misleading" statements about abortion.
And trying to prevent abortions by scaring women with breast cancer would truly be wrong. But so too would be suppressing the risks of abortion or any medical procedure.
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