Speaker: Abortions, Breast Cancer Linked

Scientific evidence shows a link between abortions performed during first pregnancies and a significant increase in the incidence of breast cancer, a recent Law School graduate told an audience of about 40 Saturday at a meeting of the Ivy League Conference for Life.

Scott W. Somerville, speaking at Sever Hall, asserted that first pregnancy abortions increase the risk of breast cancer by a "conservative estimate of 50 percent."

Somerville, who graduated from the Law School in 1992, said he based his conclusions on research into previously published results in collaboration with breast cancer specialist Dr. Joel Brind.

Somerville's talk was sponsored by the Harvard Radcliffe Alliance for Life, a campus anti-abortion group which is part of a the Ivy League Alliance for Life network.

During the early stages of a first pregnancy, breast tissue cells rapidly multiply as they prepare a network of milk ducts. If the pregnancy is terminated prematurely and the process is interrupted, breast tissue cells remain suspended in this state and are hence more susceptible to malignancy, said Somerville.


Several local and national breast cancer experts were unavailable yesterday to comment on Somerville's hypothesis.

Somerville produced 24 published studies which he said illustrate the link. Each report, he said, seems to indicate that there is ample substance behind the theory.

Somerville said birth control pills, which somesay account for the rise of breast cancer over thepast two decades, were not available in therepublics of the former Soviet Union. But a 1989study shows that incidence of breast cancer amongRussian, Estonian, and Soviet Georgian womentripled from 1960-1987, he said.

Somerville said that region's high rate ofabortion may explain the dramatic increase inincidence of breast cancer.

Somerville said the abortion industry willattempt to explain away the findings with a"so-called recall bias theory," which assumes thathealthy women lie about their abortion history butcancer-stricken women tell the truth about it.

But a 1989 report by Holly Howe, a researcherat the New York State Department of Health,eliminated any possibility of such "recall bias,"according to Somerville.

Howe used statistics from New York's FetalDeath Registry, which maintains records of everyabortion performed in the state, Somerville said.

Howe's report noted a 90 percent increase inthe risk for breast cancer for women who abortedtheir first pregnancy.

Somerville further said that most reports whichdeny the link between first pregnancy abortion andbreast cancer can be "explained away" somehow.

He said his evidence was "far from tenuous,"although he conceded that the link is, at thispoint, merely a hypothesis.

"I'm a lawyer," he said. "If this was a courtof law, I would have proved this legally already.But proving the link scientifically will be [moredifficult].

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