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Induced abortion linked to high breast cancer risk

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By Jimmy Downs

Monday Oct 29, 2012 (foodconsumer.org) --Women who have had an induced abortion may have to face a drastically increased risk of developing breast cancer, according to A.R. Jiang of Jiangsu Province Institute of Cancer Research in Nanjing, Jiangsu, China and colleagues who reported in Asian Pacific Journal of Cancer Prevention, which associates induced abortion with elevated risk of breast cancer.

For the case-control study, researchers analysed data from 669 cases of breast cancer and 682 population-based controls who resided in Jiangsu Province, China. Information of medical conditions and a history of abortion was obtained through a structured questionnaire.

The study shows women who had ever had an induced abortion were at an increased risk of developing breast cancer and the more abortions a woman had experienced, the higher the breast cancer risk they had to face.

Specifically, premenopausal women who had an induced abortion three or more times were at 141 percent increased risk of breast cancer.  After adjustment for other confounders, the risk increase was still 55 percent, compared to those who did not experience any. 

Postmenopausal women who had one induced abortion were at 104 percent increased risk for breast cancer and 82 percent increased risk for the disease after adjustment for confounders.   And the risk increased significantly with the number of induced abortion.

In contrast, spontaneous abortion was not associated with significantly changed risk of breast cancer, compared to those who did not have any type of abortion.  But in postmenopausal women, a history of spontaneous abortion increased the risk for developing breast cancer.

The researchers concluded "These results suggested that relationship between breast cancer and abortions may depend on menopausal status and induced abortion may played an important role in the development of breast cancer in Jiangsu' women of China."

Although the study was conducted in China and subjects were Chinese, the results are likely applicable to women in other countries.

Dr. Angela Lanfranchi, professor of surgery at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and Dr. Joel Brind, professor of human biology and endocrinology at Baruch College of the city of New York explain induced abortion prevents breast tissue from growing from immature type 1 and 2 lobules into mature type 3 and 4 lobules, which makes pregnant women more susceptible to carcinogenesis at extremely high levels of cancer-promoting estrogen during pregnancy.

Lanfranchi and Brind write, "During a normal pregnancy, estrogen levels rise 2000% by the end of the 1st trimester. During the first 2 trimesters, the breast grows because there is an increase in the number of immature type 1 and 2 lobules. During the 3rd trimester, the breast stops growing but lobules mature into Type 3 & 4 lobules. During the growth phase of pregnancy, the breasts become sore and tender." 

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