Medical Experiment on Black Women May Lead to Cancer Death

by Mike Richmond
Cancer Awareness Canada

20% higher breast cancer death rate in black women despite a lower incidence rate than whites

So reported the Journal of the National Cancer Institute (JNCI). In the article "Panel Grapples with the Legacy of 'Race Medicine' in Research", (4 June 1997, p. 759) a few paragraphs were comments by medical researcher Nancy Krieger, PhD, who (according to JNCI) "said high cancer incidence and mortality rates in black male workers, most notably in the steel, rubber, and chemical industries, have been traced to discriminatory work assignments". The interviewer missed a golden opportunity to ask the Harvard School of Public Health researcher a critical question: Why the 20% higher breast cancer mortality risk among black American women versus whites?
In 1989 Nancy Krieger said, "the higher teen abortion rate [double that of whites according to the CDC] among black women could conceivably heighten black teenagers' susceptibility to potentially excessive exogenous carcinogenic exposures, thereby contributing (along with lower breast feeding rates) to higher rates of premenopausal breast cancer”.1 In plain English, higher induced abortion rates among blacks as compared to whites may explain the higher breast cancer rate among blacks under the age of 40. A nineteen year old black woman who had an induced abortion in 1970 (legal in some U.S. states) would have been 38 when Krieger's article was published and will be 50 in 2001. What is the importance of age 50? When Krieger wrote her article there had been no published "black" studies of the risk of breast cancer from induced abortion. That all changed in 1993 with an article in the Journal of the National Medical Association.2


29,000 Blacks Put "on the Bus" to Breast Cancer Yearly

A black U.S. woman has about a 10% risk of contracting breast cancer during her lifetime. In December 1993 the Journal of the National Medical Association reported (pp. 931-939):
"Black women of age 50 and above who had at least one induced abortion have an increased risk of breast cancer of 370% (95% CI=2.6,8.4)."
That is, they have a 47% lifetime risk of contracting breast cancer. JNMA is a publication of black medical professionals concerned with black health problems and has published for over 100 years.
(Black women have a lower incidence of breast cancer than white women but a HIGHER mortality from breast cancer; more black women die from breast cancer than lung cancer but more white women die from lung cancer than breast cancer.)

Is this 370% result a "fluke"?

In medical science the “gold standard” is being at least 95% confident that a potential disease factor increases risk or 95% confident that the factor decreases risk. In studies of induced abortion and breast cancer, eighteen (18) studies have achieved the 95% confidence level. One study (Burany, 1979) reported that induced abortion DECREASES the risk of breast cancer. SEVENTEEN (17) studies have reported (with at least 95% confidence) that induced abortion INCREASES breast cancer risk. However, since induced abortion on a large scale is only about 26 years old in the U.S., the JNMA study is the first one to publish a risk number for black women OVER age 50. Even if one speculates that subsequent studies show "only" half the JNMA risk (i.e. a 185% increased risk), how many black women would be put "on the bus" to breast cancer yearly via induced abortion? Currently, roughly 680,000 U.S. women have an induced abortion of a first pregnancy yearly. At least 15% of the 680,000, or 102,000, are black women. Each one has a 28% (10% + 1.85 x 10%) chance of contracting breast cancer during her lifetime. Thus, about 28,560 (102,000 x 28%) black women yearly have triggered a biological event that will eventuate in breast cancer. Breast cancer could happen 10, 25 or 50 years after this event.

Are women being warned of a POSSIBLE A-B-C risk by abortion clinics? No. (Only in Louisiana, Montana, Mississippi and perhaps 2 or 3 other states, and those are only because of laws mandating warnings.) "Pro-choicers" claim A-B-C has not been CONCLUSIVELY proven. But once a medical procedure has a CREDIBLE risk, patients must be warned. In 1954 there was much credible evidence against cigarettes, but it was not CONCLUSIVE. Should smokers have not been warned of a possible lung cancer risk until 1964 (when Surgeon General Luther Terry issued his warning)? Certainly not. According to Dr. Brind's simple calculation3, a woman has 300 times the risk of death via an induced abortion compared to childbirth. One of the key presumptions in the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision in 1973 was that induced abortion was safe, in fact, safer than childbirth for mom.

Is there only one study that only had black subjects? No. In 1994 the medical journal Genetic Epidemiology reported that black women who have at least one induced abortion have an increased breast cancer risk of 144% and the researchers were at least 95% confident of the result 4.


Perhaps induced abortion helps mental problems

Physically, induced abortion is clearly bad news for women, black or white. Perhaps there are mental benefits to offset the physical harm.
It is generally accepted among professionals that induced abortion increases the risk that a woman will commit suicide. The latest (7 Dec 1996) study from Finland 5 reported that women who had an induced abortion had a 200% increased risk of committing suicide (RR = 3.08, 95% CI=1.57-6.03); women with a full-term pregnancy had a reduced risk of committing suicide compared to the general female population. A recent study 6 based on women in New York reported that women during pregnancy had a 60% reduced risk of suicide and stated, "it may suggest that pregnancy could be a model for exploring protective factors against suicide in women in general.” The researchers were at least 95% confident of their result (RR = .40, 95% CI=0.15-0.87).


(Note: In the above computations a figure of 680,000 first pregnancy abortions was used. In the early 1990's the rate was 800,000 yearly. It has been assumed here that the yearly first pregnancy abortions has decreased at the same rate as abortions in general).

1 Exposure, susceptibility, and breast cancer risk. Breast Cancer Research and Treatment. Nancy Krieger, 1989, 13:205-223
2 Breast Cancer Risk Factors in African-American Women: The Howard University Registry Experience. Journal of the National Medical Association. A E Laing et al., 1993, 85:931-939

3 National Review. 25 Dec 1995, pp. 38-41.

4 Reproductive and lifestyle risk factors for breast cancer in African-American women. Genetic Epidemiology. A E Laing et al., 1994, 11:300

5 Suicides after pregnancy in Finland, 1987-94: register linkage study. British Medical Journal. Mika Gissler et al., 1996, 313:1431-1434

6 Lower Risk of Suicide During Pregnancy. American Journal of Psychiatry. P M Marzuk et al., 1997, 154:122-123

7 Induced abortion as an independent risk factor for breast cancer: a comprehensive review and meta-analysis. J Epidemiology and Community Health. J Brind et al., 1996, 50:481- 496

8 Recent Trends in Breast Cancer Mortality among White and Black US Women. American Journal of Public Health. Emily White and Frances Chevarley, 1997, 87:775-781

9 Breast Cancer Trends: Incidence, Mortality, and Survival. Cancer, E Sondik, 1994, 74:995- 999