A link between abortion and breast cancer has prompted pro-choice groups to warn against politically motivated exaggerations of risk and abortion foes to contend that the health threat is real and can no longer be dismissed as unproved.
"I think it would be highly premature to draw the conclusion from this study that there is a cause-and-effect relationship between abortion and breast cancer," said Kate Michelman, president of the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League.She noted that the National Cancer Institute, which sponsored the study conducted by researchers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, has judged the results "far from conclusive."
But Scott Somerville, president of an pro-life organization called the Abortion Industry Monitor, said such judgment is based on the political implication of the findings.
"This is creating a lot of fireworks," said Somerville, whose group, based in Purcellville, Va., has been promoting the abortion-breast cancer connection for almost two years.
"This (the study) offers pretty damning evidence," he said.
Meanwhile, physicians and women's health advocates predict the study's findings, even if borne out by further research, will have little practical effect on women's decisions about abortion.
"I don't think it will change anything," said Dr. Mize Conner, a Bellevue, Wash., physician and president-elect of the Washington State Obstetrical Association.
"If you tell somebody contemplating an abortion that it could increase their risk of cancer, I don't think it will alter that decision," Conner said. "Remote risks tend not to influence behavior much, especially when dealing with immediate concerns."
The study found that women under age 45 who had an abortion were generally at 50 percent greater risk of breast cancer later in life.