Breast Cancer Activists Skewer ABC News

Breast Cancer Activists Skewer ABC News: Accuse ABC and New York Presbyterian Medical Center Professor of Telling Half Truths About Risk Factors

Breast cancer activists accused ABC News of bias and admonished the news organization for practicing agenda-driven journalism. This is the second time that ABC has been publicly criticized on this issue. In March 2001, ABC’s Good Morning America, had been chided by a media watchdog, Republicans for a Fair Media after Dr. Nancy Snyderman, who is not an authority on breast cancer, falsely assured women that they need not worry about increased risk of breast cancer when considering an abortion. Although 27 of 34 studies reported increased risk at that time, Snyderman only discussed one reporting a negative association.

More recently, activists criticized two articles posted on the ABC News website. The first article of concern was, “Breast Cancer Hot Spot: Why Does Marin County, California, Have Such a High Breast Cancer Rate?,” by Judy Muller. Marin County is an affluent county in the San Francisco Bay area. Citing reports from the Northern California Cancer Center (NCCC), Muller said breast cancer rates in that county jumped 60% between 1991 and 1998 and are 40% higher than the national average.

Muller cited delayed pregnancy as a risk factor. It is beyond doubt that induced abortion contributes significantly to the incidence of this disease in this way, but Muller omitted this logical conclusion, and compelling biological and epidemiological research conducted since the late 1950s supporting a causal relationship. [Reference]

Karen Malec, president of the Coalition on Abortion/Breast Cancer, rebuked ABC’s journalists and said, “ABC News will be directly responsible for the suffering and deaths of thousands of women and the terrific grief that their families will suffer as a result. Journalists are morally obligated to tell women the truth about health care, instead of covering it up.”

The incidence of the disease among American women climbed over 40% between 1973 and 1998 and is disproportionately higher for the Roe v. Wade generation than for the non-Roe v. Wade generation when this older group was at a comparable age. 1 2 Not surprisingly, the NCCC reported that if the demographic data for Marin County are reliable, then “The increase in 1999 was mostly confined to women aged 45-64.”

Breast cancer used to be known as a grandmother’s disease among women of the non-Roe generation. For the Roe generation, however, breast cancer has become a young woman’s disease. Angela Lanfranchi, M.D., F.A.C.S., a New Jersey breast cancer surgeon affiliated with the Robert Wood Johnson Medical Center, informed a California court under oath that she asks her colleagues to obtain patients’ reproductive histories. Among those who have done so, she said, they’ve “found as I did that . . . cases of breast cancer in young women are associated with an abortion history.” 3

The second article of concern, “Understanding Breast Cancer Risk,” was authored by an assistant professor of medicine affiliated with New York Presbyterian Medical Center, Andrew Joe, M.D. His piece was originally posted last year on websites for ABC News and Healthology, an online physicians’ health media company. “

Either Dr. Joe neglected to do his homework before writing this article, or he deliberately lied about the research,” commented Mrs. Malec. “Neither situation reflects well upon him.”

Although he labeled childbearing, prolonged breast feeding and early first full term pregnancy as protective, he contradicted himself in the same paragraph by asserting that “Abortion, either miscarriage or voluntary, does not have an effect on cancer risk.”

“I’m appalled that he could be so cavalier about this risk,” added Mrs. Malec, “but then he’s not the one expected to risk his life for an optional surgical procedure either. Presumably, he took the Hippocratic Oath which says, ‘First do no harm.’ His ideological bias interferes with his medical judgment.”

Dr. Joe confused the effects of miscarriage with the effects of abortion, although research shows that most miscarriages do not raise breast cancer risk, but induced abortion does. Miscarriages are often preceded by a decline in the production of progesterone which is needed to maintain a pregnancy. Because estrogen is made from progesterone, these pregnancies generally produce insufficient quantities of estrogen.

Dr. Joe fingered estrogen overexposure as the culprit associated with the major breast cancer risk factors and explained that breast tissue ‘consistently exposed to estrogen’ raises risk. Last year, estrogen replacement therapy (ERT) was added to the nation’s list of known carcinogens. Only a short time ago, researchers reported a statistically significant relationship between ERT and breast cancer.

Knowledge of the adverse effects of estrogen overexposure has helped scientists to explain the abortion-breast cancer link. Scientists know that estrogen levels increase 20-fold in the first trimester of pregnancy. At no other time in a woman’s life is she exposed to such high levels of estrogen. The differentiation process which corrects for that and provides increased protection against the disease only occurs in the third trimester when breast cells mature into cancer-resistant, milk-producing tissue. However, women obtaining abortions are left with more immature, cancer-vulnerable cells than they had before they became pregnant because estrogen caused normal and pre-cancerous cells to multiply. No scientists argue with that explanation.

Medical experts privately say that abortion causes breast cancer, but are afraid to say so publicly. Dr. Lanfranchi has declared under oath,

“Over the past three or four years, I have spoken with many authorities and people in a position to be well-informed. Some have been straightforward and said that they know (abortion) is a risk factor but felt it was too political to speak about.” 4

“Doctors don’t have a divine right to paternalistically censor health care information. Women have the exclusive right to make their own health care decisions,” argued Mrs. Malec.

The Coalition on Abortion/Breast Cancer is an international women’s organization founded to protect the health and save the lives of women by educating and providing information on abortion as a risk factor for breast cancer.

  • 1. Howe, et al. Journal of the National Cancer Institute, Vol. 93. No. 11 (June 6, 2001).
  • 2. Joel Brind, Ph.D., “New report on cancer in the U.S.: Continuing rise in breast cancer stumps top experts,” Breast Cancer Prevention Institute Report (December 2001).
  • 3. Agnes Bernardo, et al. v. Planned Parenthood Federation of America, et al.; Superior Court of the State of California; Case No. GIC 772552.
  • 4. Ibid.

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