by intern Anne Marie D.
Note: Anne Marie is a nursing major. The following is an excerpt from her research paper on the link between abortion and breast cancer.
[JLS note: Anne Marie does a fabulous job explaining the ABC link in this piece!]
breast-cancer-cell.jpgIn essence, the case for a link between induced abortion and breast cancer, or the ABC link, is based on several simple biological principles. Minimal background in breast physiology will suffice to introduce these principles.
First, the main units of the breast are lobules, which consist of milk-producing glands and ducts, composed of individual breast cells. Four types of lobules exist. From the end of puberty until the 3rd trimester of her first full-term pregnancy, a woman’s breast tissue is comprised of Type 1 and 2 lobules. Type 1 lobules, or ductal lobules, are associated with 80% of all breast cancers (Bachiochi, Ch. 8). Both Types 1 and 2 lobules are considered cancer-vulnerable….

The longer a woman waits to complete her first full-term pregnancy, the longer her breast tissue is comprised only of cancer-vulnerable lobules. This indirect link, as it is referred to, between waiting to complete a full-term pregnancy and an increased risk of breast cancer, is uncontested.
In addition to the indirect link, certain breast cancer researchers have found a direct link, resulting from the following biologic principles: When a woman becomes pregnant, her estrogen levels shoot up 2000% by the end of the first semester, causing rapid proliferation of Type 1 and 2 lobules. This proliferation accounts for an increase in size and tenderness in the breast, and simultaneously explains why first-trimester miscarriages are not associated with increased risk.
Oftentimes, women who have first-trimester miscarriages deny knowing that they were pregnant, primarily because their breasts never enlarged or grew tender. For these women, there was neither a spike in estrogen, nor increased proliferation of Type 1 and Type 2 lobules. Thus, while they did not gain Type 3 and Type 4 cancer-resistant lobules, neither did they experience increased risk from Type 1 and Type 2 proliferation.
Admittedly, pregnant women who do not miscarry experience slightly increased risk of breast cancer for a time, as the proliferation means that breast cancer has more places to start. Remarkably though, by the 32nd week of the pregnancy, women begin developing Type 3 and Type 4 lobules. Both types are considered cancer-resistant.
The heart of the ABC link, then, lies in the increased proliferation of Type 1 and Type 2 lobules, without gaining the protection of the cancer-resistant Type 3 and Type 4 lobules. Perhaps most telling for women is an estimated 30% increase in personal risk of breast cancer in relation to having an abortion. The following diagram from Dr. Angela Lanfranchi’s Breast Cancer: Risks & Prevention provides a pictorial representation of the time line and types of lobules throughout pregnancy.
Works Cited: Bachiochi, Erika, ed. The Cost of “Choice”: Women Evaluate the Impact of Abortion. San Francisco: Encounter Books, 2004.
Lanfranchi, Angela. “Breast Cancer Risks & Prevention.” Breast Cancer Prevention Institute. 2007. 4th Ed. Retrieved April 20, 2009 from Breast Cancer Prevention Institute Website.
[Photo attribution:]

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