(Photo: REUTERS/Enrique Marcarian)
Advanced breast cancer cases are increasing in young American women overall and almost twice as fast among African-American women, according to a recent study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association. And some experts believe the use of hormonal contraceptive steroids and abortions have a lot to do with the trend.
The term advanced breast cancer refers to those cancers which, at the time of diagnosis, have usually already spread to other locations in the body, such as the bones, lungs and brain.
The study, authored by Rebecca H. Johnson, MD; Franklin L. Chien, BA, and Archie Bleyer, MD, was published last Wednesday and examined breast cancer data from the U.S. National Cancer Institute Surveillance, Epidemiology, an End Results (SEER) database.
The results revealed a nearly 90 percent increase in the incidence of advanced cancer in 25- to 39-year-old women from 1.53 per 100,000 in 1976 to 2.90 per 100,000 in 2009.
"No other age group or extent-of-disease subgroup of the same age range had a similar increase. For 25- to 39-year-olds, there was an increased incidence in distant disease among all races and ethnicities evaluated, especially non-Hispanic white and African American, and this occurred in both metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas," noted the authors in an abstract of the study. They called the increase small but "statistically significant" because there was no corresponding increase in the disease in older women.
The study provides no explanation for the results but some experts say there is strong circumstantial evidence suggesting a link between increasing advanced cancers in young women, abortions and hormonal contraceptive steroids use.
"It's utterly stunning that Johnson's team called the increased incidence in advanced cancers among young women 'small,'" said Karen Malec, president of the Coalition on Abortion/Breast Cancer, in a statement on Monday. "That's a nearly doubled increase in the incidence of a disease with a mean five year fatality rate of 69 percent! By contrast, the mean five-year fatality rate among women with breast cancers that have not spread to distant sites is 13.2 percent," she added.
Malec explained in an interview with The Christian Post on Monday that the World Health Organization (WHO) labeled the birth control pill a Group I carcinogen in 2005. Carcinogens are cancer causing agents.
"This is the highest level of carcinogenicity that the World Health Organization can assign to a cancer causing agent and yet this seems to be ignored by the government officials at HHS (United States Department of Health and Human Services) and I also find it irregular that the authors would not have discussed reasons for this increase in advanced cancers," said Malec. The WHO also notes that the birth control pill increases the risk of developing breast, liver and cervical cancers.
"This study is very disconcerting because these are young women who should have many years ahead of them," added Malec.
Joel Brind, professor of human biology and endocrinology at New York City's Baruch College and President of the Breast Cancer Prevention Institute in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., who said he reviewed the study, agreed with Malec. "The trend is suspiciously coincidental," he told CP in an interview on Monday. "I would say the obvious likely culprit is abortion and contraceptives."
To illustrate the seriousness of the study, Brind pointed out that black women are the most significantly affected group in the study, and based on the estimates, "every single day a black woman is diagnosed with advanced breast cancer that will probably kill her in five years or less from abortion or contraceptive use," he said.
The New York City-based academic suggested that instead of running a campaign against large sodas, the cancer causing effects of contraceptive use and abortions is a more pressing issue for New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg to address.
"They (NYC) went after cigarettes. Why not birth control? It should at least be number two on the list [of health concerns], not big gulps," said Brind, referencing New York City's controversial large soda ban.
In February it was revealed that the Bloomberg-led New York City administration handed out nearly 13,000 doses of the morning-after pill and other contraceptives to students in the city's public school system in the last school year.
Malec, highlighted the dangers behind this move, noting that scientific studies show that the earlier females begin using hormonal contraceptive steroids, the more at-risk they are to developing deadly cancers. "With all the women that are using or have used the birth control pill starting before first full term pregnancy, which scientists call susceptibility window, that is a matter of concern," said Malec. "The susceptibility window is the period between the onset of menstruation and first full-term pregnancy. That's when all of the breast modules are immature and cancer susceptible," she noted.
Malec highlighted that the carcinogenic drugs found in oral contraceptives, estrogen and progestin are also delivered by other means such as the skin patch, vaginal ring, some IUDs and injections.
"Some women may not realize that when medical experts talk about the birth control pill they are not just talking about a pill that you take orally. These drugs can be delivered through other mechanism," said Malec.
Brind explained that it was time for a serious and honest discussion on contraceptive use and their risks to women's health. "These are lethal cancers, you find a woman who is 30-years-old and diagnosed with cancer and she is dead in five years of less," he said. "It is a modifiable risk and it should be talked about."