Pro-life campaigners claimed this week that the link between abortion and breast cancer has been established 'beyond reasonable doubt'. Jack Scarisbrick, chairman of LIFE, said: "It is now impossible for doctors to authorise abortions on the grounds that it would be better for the health of the mother to have an abortion than to continue the pregnancy, as we now know so much more about the damage abortion does to women's physical and mental health. Some 90% of abortions are done on that ground." He was speaking yesterday at a press conference for Abortion and other Pregnancy-Related Risk Factors in Female Breast Cancer, a study by actuary, Patrick Carroll of the Population and Pension Research Institute. According to the study, by the end of 2001, at least 22,000 women in England and Wales could have developed breast cancer as a direct result of abortions carried out under the 1967 Abortion Act. It is estimated that as mortality rate for the disease is about 25% at least 5500 women could have or will die as a direct result of the abortions. In a statement, LIFE said: 'Unless there is major progress in diagnosis and treatment of the disease and unless there is a dramatic reduction in hospital waiting-lists, we predict that by 2023 over 360,000 women in England and Wales may have developed breast cancer directly attributable to abortion. Most of their abortions have already taken place.' The study comes a month after it was revealed that breast cancer has overtaken lung cancer as the most common British cancer, news greeted with 'bafflement' by cancer charities. LIFE said that breast cancer rates for women aged 60 to 79 have been rising steadily at about 2% per annum from 1972, the first full year of national cancer registration, to the mid 80s. From the mid-1980s, while breast cancer rates for older women remained steady, rates for younger women surged. "Carroll has shown that none of the other well-known, major risk factors, except declining fertility, can be invoked. We therefore conclude that the Abortion Act 1967 has been a substantial independent cause of the fast rise in breast cancer incidence rates among women aged 45 to 59 in the period 1987-97," LIFE said. Delyth Morgan, chief executive of Breakthrough Breast Cancer dismissed the study. She said: "This study appears to play on the fears of women with breast cancer, who have had an abortion in the past and women facing the difficult decision of abortion in the future. Both are among the most traumatic experiences that any woman might have to go through. We have grave doubts about the value of this study and its findings. Making women feel guilty is unnecessary and cruel. Breast cancer should not be used as a political football when women's health is the most important thing." Dr Lesley Walker, director of cancer information at the Cancer Research Campaign said: "I was not surprised by the study but I was surprised by the lack of epidemiological expertise involved in putting it together. I thought it was misleading. Breast cancer is a complex area with multiple risk factors and the evidence at the moment is insufficient to justify warning women about the impact of induced abortion. I think studies on particular sub-groups who might be more susceptible to risks of induced abortion might be of some value. "If the risks of induced abortion were shown to be high, to the satisfaction of the academic community, one would need to advise women of it and one would want to," she added.
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