By Joel Brind Ph.D.
It has been famously noted that facts—like the fact that abortion increases a woman’s risk of getting breast cancer (ABC link) — are stubborn things. One hopes that means that eventually, the truth always comes out. But along the way, we also see that necessity—like the political necessity to cover up the truth of the ABC link—is the mother of increasingly inventive ways to do just that. In fact, the latest technique is to resurrect a tired old bogeyman named “recall bias”, aka “response bias” or “reporting bias”, but in a particularly brazen way.
The most recent study is yet another one from India, making the total number of South Asian studies (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka) 15, all since 2008. Every one of them reports increased breast cancer risk with abortion, with risk increases as high as almost 2,000 percent (20-fold)!
The authors of this 2016 study by Nagrani et al. actually acknowledge that they have observed increased breast cancer risk with induced abortions. They go so far as to admit that “most previous case-control studies have observed a positive association between induced abortion and breast cancer.”
But, alas, they are quick to retreat to their old hobby horse: that there results are “likely to be due to recall bias.”
The recall bias argument, which has been disproven repeatedly, goes like this.
When you construct a standard, retrospective “case-control” epidemiological study, you identify a group of women with breast cancer (the “cases”) and a similar sized group of similar women who do not have breast cancer (the “controls”).
Then, via questionnaires and/or interviews, you find out—among other relevant data pertaining to medical and reproductive history—which women have had any abortions and which women did not. If more of the women with breast cancer (the “cases”) have had abortions compared to those who have not had an abortion (the “controls”), this translates to the association of increased risk with abortion; numerically, a “relative risk” greater than 1.
However suppose, in the study outlined above, there only appears to be difference in the frequency of abortion among the cases versus controls. How can that be? Enter recall bias.
The reason there appears to be more breast cancer among women who have aborted (the argument goes) is because the women who do not have breast cancer are more likely than the women with breast cancer to deny their abortion history. Then it would falsely appear that abortion was associated with breast cancer, due to recall bias.
In other words there is difference in the accuracy of remembering and reporting prior abortions, between the case and control groups.
As plausible as this recall bias may seem, credible evidence of its existence in ABC link research has never been demonstrated. In fact, it has been repeatedly proven not to exist in ABC link studies.
That stubborn fact, however, has not deterred the ABC link deniers from repeatedly citing the same discredited hypothesis—as if it were fact—to accomplish their political objective of erasing the ABC link from the public mind. In 2003, the US National Cancer Institute (NCI) held a so-called “workshop,” which succeeded in establishing the non-existence of the ABC link as official “truth” worldwide.
Sorry, epidemiologists, but recall bias could not explain risks increases of 10 or 20-fold!
Let’s go back to the Nagrani study.
The reason this typical invocation of recall bias is so egregious in the Nagrani study is the clear finding of what is called a “dose effect.”
This means that the risk increase found among women with two or more abortions was clearly greater than that observed among women who had a history of only one abortion.
The minimal, non-significant risk increase (10%) Nagrani et al. reported to be associated with having one abortion is supposed to be pretty accurate, but the significant, (58-108%) risk increase associated with a woman having two or more abortions can be dismissed as an artifact caused by recall bias?
We are therefore supposed to think that healthy women who have had one abortion will report it accurately in a study, but once they have had their second abortion, they will start lying about their abortions to the epidemiologists doing the study?
On the contrary, the ABC link is very real, as we are witnessing a growing worldwide breast cancer epidemic. Not only have we seen a veritable explosion of studies from the Indian subcontinent, but in “One Child Policy” mainland China as well.
In late 2013, Dr. Yubei Huang and colleagues published a systematic review and meta-analysis of 36 studies in mainland China. They reported an overall 44% increase in breast cancer risk among women with one or more abortions; up to an 89% risk increase among women with three or more abortions. (See my earlier reports on this in NRL News.) And there are also other recent studies (from the past 10 years) from elsewhere in Asia (Iran, Kazakhstan), the Mideast (Egypt, Palestine, Iraq) and elsewhere (Turkey, Armenia, Mexico) confirming the ABC link.
So just who are these wizards of smart who believe that you, dear readers of their study, are so stupid and/or so ill informed as to believe the response bias canard ? For me, who has been studying the ABC link and its cover-up for over 23 years, I go straight to the by-line.
There I see that one of the co-authors, Preetha Rajamaran, works for the NCI, the US government agency that has been lying about the ABC link for over 20 years.
Digging a bit deeper, recall that Dr. Louise Brinton, who headed the NCI’s Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics, was the main orchestrator of the NCI’s phony 2003 workshop. Dr. Brinton is still with the NCI DCEG, but no longer as its Chief. Her new title is “Scientific Advisor for International Activities.”
Apparently, one of these international activities is teaching Asian epidemiologists how to cover up the ABC link.
Your federal tax dollars at work.
Joel Brind, Ph.D. is a professor of Human Biology and Endocrinology and Deputy Chair for Biology at Baruch College, City University of New York, USA, where he has been teaching since 1986. He has been researching the ABC link since 1992, and co-founded the Breast Cancer Prevention Institute in the USA in 1999. He is a regular contributor to NRL News and NRL News Today.