U.S. Journalists 'Celebrate' a Carcinogen's Birthday / British Scientists Shill for the Pill
by Karen Malec, President, Coalition on Abortion/Breast Cancer
Karen Malec is a frequent contributor to RFFM.org. Malec is the Founder and President of the Coalition on Abortion/Breast Cancer.
A free press and the dissemination of accurate information are among the elements needed for the continuation of a democratic republic. A free people must be educated and have access to truthful information in order to make decisions about the issues of the day, choose worthy candidates for office, participate in the legislative process and promote the common good.
One of the marks of a totalitarian government is one in which the flow of information is tightly controlled so that the attitudes and beliefs of citizens can be formed in a way that benefits the powerful. When journalists in a free society omit or misrepresent scientific evidence that is critical for making life-or-death health decisions, they violate a fundamental human right. Indeed, having the right to protect one's own life trumps every other right.
News stories "celebrating" the birth control pill's birthday - also known as "oral contraceptives" - raise troubling questions about the dedication of journalists in the mainstream press to the democratic ideal and their traditional roles as defenders of civil liberties and watchdogs of government.
When feminist ideology, left-wing politics, corporate agendas or even keeping one's job supersede women's lives in importance, journalists abandon their professional responsibilities and become complicit in the abuse of power exercised by governments and wealthy men striving to reduce the populations of nations around the world.
When journalists tout pro-pill studies funded by pharmaceutical companies - as they have done with the recent study in the British Medical Journal, Hannaford et al. 2010 - or when they promote studies that receive heavy criticism from researchers' peers in medical journals (also like Hannaford et al. 2010), they become instruments of corporate greed, perhaps unknowingly. 1
Here is a glimpse of a few "news stories" celebrating the 50th birthday of a carcinogen.
Associated Press: "'The health benefits are tremendous,' said Dr. Melissa Gilliam, chief of family planning contraceptive research at the University of Chicago Medical Center. 'It decreases the risk of ovarian cancer and uterine cancer. If we called it "the cancer-preventing pill," it would have far better traction. It's a real success story.'" 2
Response: There was not even a veneer of objectivity here. Why didn't the author, Carla Johnson, bother to interview researchers whose studies show that the pill raises the risk of cancers of the breast, liver and cervix? Why only interview a family planning contraceptive researcher?
The World Health Organization (WHO) assigned combined (estrogen + progestin) oral contraceptives and combined hormone replacement therapy the highest level of carcinogenicity as Group 1 carcinogens in 2005. 3 These drugs are on the same list as benzene, tobacco, asbestos and cadmium.
The WHO's press release in 2005 said combined oral contraceptives raise the risk of cancers of the breast, liver and cervix, but reduce the risk of cancers of the endometrium and ovaries. 4 Incredibly, some softheaded doctors tell women to take a carcinogen (the pill) to prevent cancer. The truth is that more than twice as many American women die every year from the cancers that the pill causes than the cancers it prevents.
Combined oral contraceptives and combined hormone replacement therapy contain the same type of drugs, but the former have a larger dose of those drugs. Unlike combined hormone replacement therapy, women often use the pill during the most cancer-susceptible time of their lives - before the birth of a first child.
In April, Dr. Gerard Nadal, a microbiologist, explained on his blog, Coming Home, that combined hormone replacement therapy, combined oral contraceptives and abortion share the same biological mechanism for cancer production. 5 All three risks have to do with the negative effect of estrogen overexposure, while in the presence of progesterone, on immature, cancer-susceptible breast lobules.
Only eight years ago, researchers stopped a large study - the Women's Health Initiative - because study subjects using these steroidal hormones - combined estrogen and progestin - were at risk for stroke, heart attack, breast cancer and blood clots. 6 One year later, after thousands of women had stopped using combined hormone replacement therapy, there were 14,000 fewer U.S. cases of breast cancer.
Beyond all reason, mainstream journalists unconscionably ignored last year's monumental study on oral contraceptives and triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC), an aggressive form of breast cancer associated with a high mortality rate. Led by Jessica Dolle, the study included as co-author Dr. Louise Brinton, a U.S. National Cancer Institute branch chief. 7 The authors reported that recent users of the pill within the last one to five years multiply their risk of TNBC - by 4.2 times. Women who started using the pill before age 18 multiply their risk of TNBC by 3.7 times. Women with abortions in the study had a statistically significant 40% increase in risk for breast cancer, whether or not it was TNBC.
Other than the Chicago Tribune's Dennis Byrne, what American mainstream journalists cared enough about women to inform them about these findings - especially those who develop TNBC most often, i.e. African Americans and women under age 50?
Researchers' findings contradicted the U.S. National Cancer Institute's official position that the abortion-breast cancer link is "non-existent." They contribute to overwhelming evidence that the agency conned women into believing this blatant falsehood with its sham workshop on the link in 2003. 8 Nevertheless, while Uncle Sam physically abuses women in every country that has made abortion legally accessible, America's mainstream journalists are taking a siesta.
CBS News: "Control your cycle; control your life. What could be more empowering? Plus it made your boobs bigger. Win-win....It may have produced fewer children, but it produced better mothers: fulfilled women who deliberately created families." 9
Response: Yeah, right. Taking hormonal contraceptive steroids and developing cancers of the breast, cervix and liver makes women feel powerful. How many cancer patients would agree that the pill made them better mothers? This silly pitch for the pill reads like a pharmaceutical ad.
Time Magazine: "One of the world's largest studies of the Pill — 46,000 women followed for nearly 40 years — was released this March. It found that women who take the Pill are less likely to die prematurely from any cause, including cancer and heart disease, yet many women still question whether the health risks outweigh the benefits." 10
Response: As of April 4, 2010 - eighteen days before Time published its article - the British Medical Journal had published on its website a long list of scientists, who criticized the study, Hannaford et al. 2010, and demonstrated the flaws in the study.  Time Magazine might be interested in the fact that at least one letter by Joel Brind, Ph.D. rebutting the findings in the study was published during the week of the pill's birthday in the print version of the British Medical Journal. 11 Professor Brind is Deputy Chair for Biology and Environmental Sciences at Baruch College, City University of New York. He offered his comments on the Time article by saying:
"Here are some inconvenient truths about Time's statement: They say: '46,000 women followed for nearly 40 years.'
"The truth: Of the 46,000 in the original study, only 10,000 were actually followed up for the whole study, and even at that, the follow up for those 10,000 ended in 1996, i.e., after only 28 years--not 40! When the analysis was restricted to those 10,000 women followed up until 1996, there was no significant difference in longevity between pill users and never users. Why did the study end so long ago? Because it started long ago, back in 1968, when the average pill user was already 29 and married with children; the type of women whose future health is least affected by the pill.
"But now, of course, most pill users are very young--teens and early 20's, unmarried and with no children; the type of women whose future risk of breast cancer and other life-shortening illnesses is most affected by the pill. And if you actually bother to read the whole Hannaford study--which the Time author likely did not--these trends actually show up. For example, here's a sobering quote directly from the results of the paper, where the authors are referring to the subset of younger women (they don't tell you how many), who were under age 45 in 1996:
"'The increased rate of death from circulatory disease persisted in pill users five to nine years after stopping use and was accompanied by an increased rate of death from all cancers combined, including breast cancer. This resulted in a significantly increased adjusted relative risk of death from any cause among this group (1.76, 1.27 to 2.45 for all causes; 1.91, 1.18 to 3.07 for all cancers combined), compared with never users.'"
When women choose to take the pill (or have an abortion) is an important piece of information in any study focusing on the link to breast cancer. Women in the 1960s took the pill after they had already had their families. Today, women take the pill before the birth of a first child during the "susceptibility window" - the period between puberty and first full term pregnancy when nearly all of the breast lobules are cancer-susceptible Type 1 and 2 lobules. Ninety-seven percent of all breast cancers develop in Type 1 and 2 lobules (where ductal and lobular cancers arise).
On the other hand, by the end of first full term pregnancy, 85% of the lobules are permanently cancer-resistant. The more carcinogenic time to be exposed to the pill is before first full term pregnancy. Abortions before first full term pregnancy are called "highly carcinogenic." Women who followed the more current patterns of pill use, using before first full term pregnancy at a younger age and for longer periods, have greater health problems, not less.
Hopefully, Time's editors have the integrity to print a retraction.
Chris Kahlenborn, MD, the lead author of a meta-analysis published in 2006 in the journal, Mayo Clinic Proceedings, calls breast cancer "the pill's dirty secret." 12 Kahlenborn and his colleagues' paper included an examination of studies dating from the 1980s. They found that women who used the pill before a first full term pregnancy increased their risk of developing pre-menopausal breast cancer by 44%.
In a recent commentary "The Pill after 50 Years: The Dirty Little Secret of Contraception" 13 Kahlenborn said he was stunned that the meta-analysis brought almost no press coverage, although Mayo Clinic sent a press release to all major media in the country and 40,000 American women develop pre-menopausal breast cancer annually. The mainstream media continue to studiously ignore the meta-analysis, although it remains the most recent one in this area.
There is a simple explanation for the mainstream media's hear-no-evil, see-no-evil, speak-no-evil practices. Although the pill is accepted as a risk factor for certain cancers in the highest places of medicine, in feminist theology it (and induced abortion) is a sacred sacrament. Belief in the safety of so-called reproductive rights is an article of religious faith. For true believers, it serves as an impediment to science.
Hopefully, both scientists and journalists dedicated to the cause of "reproductive rights" will ask themselves in good conscience whether it is really worth causing large numbers of women to lose their breasts or cut their lives short. Is it really worth causing children to lose their mothers to cancer?
Alexis de Tocqueville, a 19th century political thinker and French aristocrat, used to argue that it is easier for people to believe a simple lie than a complex truth. In the case of the birth control pill, the simple lie is that it is "safe" for women. Keeping women in the dark about the deadly risks of the pill and induced abortion is a form of totalitarianism through science and the mass media.
Karen Malec, President
Coalition on Abortion/Breast Cancer
- 1. Hannaford et al. British Medical Journal 2010;340:c927.
- 2. "America's Favorite Birth Control Method Turns 50," By Carla Johnson, Associated Press, May 7, 2010. Available at: http://www.nbc11news.com/home/headlines/93071369.html
- 3. Cogliano V, Grosse Y, Baan R, Secretan B, El Ghissassi F. Carcinogenicity of combined oestrogen-progestagen contraceptives and menopausal treatment. Lancet Oncology 2005;6:552-553.
- 4. Press Release No. 167, "IARC Monographs Programme Finds Combined Estrogen-Progestogen Contraceptives (the "pill") and Menopausal Therapy Are Carcinogenic to Humans," World Health Organization International Agency for Research on Cancer, July 29, 2005.
- 5. Dr. Gerard Nadal, “My interview on abortion-breast cancer link in Fathers for Good,” Coming Home, April 16, 2010. Available at: http://gerardnadal.com/2010/04/16/my-interview-on-abortion-breast-cancer-link-in-fathers-for-good/
- 6. Writing group for the Women’s Health Initiative Investigators. Risks and benefits of estrogen plus progestin in healthy postmenopausal women. JAMA 2002;288:321-33.
- 7. Dolle J, Daling J, White E, Brinton L, Doody D, et al. Risk factors for triple-negative breast cancer in women under the age of 45 years. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev 2009;18(4)1157-1166. Available at: http://www.abortionbreastcancer.com/download/Abortion_Breast_Cancer_Epid_Bio_Prev_2009.pdf
- 8. See the Coalition on Abortion/Breast Cancer's press release, "Groups Request Congressional Investigation of National Cancer Institute's Misinformation on Breast Cancer Risks of Abortion, Oral Contraceptives," January 25, 2010. Available at: http://www.abortionbreastcancer.com/press_releases/100125/index.htm
- 9. "Faith Salie: Happy Birthday to the Pill, Says the 'Pro-Choice Contraceptive Empowered Women to Become Better Mothers," CBS News, May 9, 2010. Available at: http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2010/05/09/sunday/main6469959.shtml?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+CBSNewsOpinion+%28Opinion%3A+CBSNews.com%29
- 10. "The Pill at 50: Sex, Freedom and Paradox," By Nancy Gibbs, Time Magazine, April 22, 2010. Available at: http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1983712,00.html
- 11. Brind J. Wrong Conclusions Drawn Again. Letter. British Medical Journal 2010;340:c927.
- 12. Kahlenborn C, Modugno F. Potter D, Severs W. Oral contraceptive use as a risk factor for premenopausal breast cancer: A meta-analysis. Mayo Clinic Proceedings 2006;81(10):1290-1302.
- 13. http://rffm.typepad.com/republicans_for_fair_medi/2010/05/the-pill-after-50-years-the-dirty-little-secret-of-contraception.html