|Chicago Tribune Blogger
wondered why no one pays attention to the abortion / breast cancer link
and in researching discovered the birth control medication/breast cancer
"Why isn't this study about the pill and breast cancer
heeded?" asked Dennis Byrne of the Chicago Tribune in 2007, when he read
in the "Mayo Clinic Proceedings" about a study finding a strong link
between abortion and breast cancer. He apparently didn't receive an
answer but did get a "ton of hate mail" from abortion aficionados who
called him all manner of names and accused him of getting his information
incorrect. And in studying the issue, Byrne found another
interesting fact - there is also a strong link between birth control
hormones and breast cancer. And in looking through the media sources, he
found virtually no reference to these risks of abortion and birth control
Byrne was shocked, believing like most folks, that lay people can get
the entire story on medical procedures from those who provide them or from
the mass media which bombards us daily with more information in a week
than our grandparents received in a year.
What Dennis Bryne didn't take in consideration was that abortion is big
bucks for the provider. Doing the math, a suction abortion takes
approximately 10 minutes of the physician's time and grosses $400-$500
bucks. A provider can rather comfortably do 10-12 abortions in a 5
hour day - that's a gross income of $5000 bucks and overhead for the
clinics is typically low. Even if the provider takes home $3000
bucks a day, 5 days of work nets him/her, $15,000.00. If a provider works
like that for only 25 weeks a year, he/she nets $375,000.00. That's
a lot of bucks for a procedure which takes 5 minutes and is done mostly,
by a machine.
People will do strange things, forget morality and more for much less
Later term abortions take longer but providers can charge $8000-$9000
Do the math.
No Mystery why politicians on both sides of the fence are afraid to
mess with the abortion industry.
Here is Byrne's article, reprinted under Title 17, "fair use" (he moved
By Dennis Byrne
Not wanting to become known as the town quack, I am reluctant to write
another politically incorrect column about breast cancer.
Four weeks ago, when I reported a study that found a statistical link
between abortion and breast cancer, the hate e-mail poured in,
denouncing me for being an ignorant, stupid, anti-science, anti-choice
and anti-woman lunatic. But it also brought a message alerting me to yet
another study, suggesting that premenopausal women (younger than 50) who
used oral contraceptives prior to having their first child faced a
higher risk of breast cancer. Yes, I know, this debate has been going on
for years, if not decades, and judging by the last studies given wide
exposure a few years ago by the media, the issue seems settled: Oral
contraception does not significantly increase the risk of breast cancer.
There's just one problem. According to an analysis in one of the most
credible peer-reviewed journals in the country, the Mayo Clinic
Proceedings, the risk is real. The study employed an often-used medical
research technique called "meta-analysis" that allows researchers to
combine data from other studies on the risk to get a larger picture. The
result: Premenopausal women who used oral contraceptives prior to having
their first child have a 44 percent higher chance of getting cancer than
women who didn't use the pill. If they used the pill for more than four
years prior to their first full-term pregnancy, the risk increased 52
percent. Chris Kahlenborn, an internist at the Altoona (Pa.) Hospital
and the study's lead author, suggests one additional woman in 200 could
get breast cancer. Extrapolated throughout the population, that could
mean thousands more cases every year. I'd say that's an important story.
The reaction? Nearly total silence. Since it was published more than a
year ago, I couldn't find a single reference to it in the archives of
the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times or this paper.
The Associated Press appears not to have covered it. I couldn't find a
single mainstream media article about it in a Google search. But stories
about other breast cancer risks were plentiful, including one about how
sleeping with a night light on can increase your chances of getting
breast cancer. The National Institute of Cancer doesn't mention the
study on its Web site, but it did detail a 5-year-old study claiming to
find no higher risk to pill use. The American Cancer Society also
doesn't mention the study and concedes only that "it is still not clear
what part" the pill plays in breast cancer. Such guidance, if not
deceptive, is certainly incomplete.
"The last word seems to be that the pill is safe," Kahlenborn told me,
as he called me with his frustration with being unable to get this
important information out to women. "The word basically in the medical
community before the study, and it continues to be, is that the pill is
quite safe." But the results of his study are disquieting enough that if
the pill were just coming out today, the findings would be enough for
the Food and Drug Administration to keep it off the market, he said.
Why so little attention? My guess is that the pill has been so widely
accepted, that it has become such a key part of feminist ideology and
that the pharmaceutical companies make so much from it, that few folks
are willing at this stage to talk about its dangers. It's no small irony
that those who habitually are quick to criticize big business and
government for failing to "do enough" to protect consumers are mostly
silent when it comes to talking about this particular risk.
Here, I also should clarify some things to all the folks who are itching
to hit the "post comment" button: Kahlenborn is pro-life, but what has
that to do with his research? As for me, I am not opposed to
contraception, oral or otherwise. I am not plotting to get the pill
banned. I am not writing this column for hidden religious reasons. I am
not saying that the Kahlenborn study is the last word; I'm not a
scientist, so I can't vouch for its methodology or conclusions. Just
like the abortion/breast cancer study, I'm writing about it because
people have a right to know about the existence of health information,
even if it is contradictory to the given wisdom.
The truth is that I'd just as soon not write about it, for all the heat
it generates. I just wish that someone else would.