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Link Between Abortion, Breast Cancer Weak

Wed., Jan. 24, 1996

A link, if any, between abortion and breast cancer is weak, according to a new study that echoes earlier findings.

Although 10 states are considering legislation that would require abortion clinics to inform women of the possible breast cancer risk, several studies have failed to demonstrate conclusively that such a risk exists.

In the new study, reported in Tuesday’s Journal of the American Medical association, researchers found a slight increase - 12 percent - in breast cancer risk among women who reported having either a spontaneous or induced abortion.

The apparent increase could be due to underreporting of abortions among the healthy women, the researchers concluded.

“We couldn’t really rule out reporting bias, and the differences were so slight that we are not confident that there is a risk,” said Polly A. Newcomb, an epidemiologist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle and lead author of the study.

Newcomb also noted that even if it proves real, the 12 percent increase in risk from spontaneous or induced abortions is much smaller than the heightened risk associated with some other known risk factors.

For example, a strong family history of breast cancer quadruples the risk of the disease. Not having children or having them late in life doubles the risk, as does heavy alcohol consumption.

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